One day, while bored at IHOP, Bobby Steele and his friends Marcus and Big Poobs decide to create a fake application for Whitestone Academy, a fancy private school that rivals their own public one. Rowan Pohi is born, and they have a good time creating a persona for this person. But then Rowan is accepted to Whitestone, and Bobby decides to attend the school as Rowan. Everything goes according to plan for a while, but Bobby can’t balance his two worlds forever, and eventually they come crashing together.
Readers, what can I say? Nothing about this one worked for me. It’s fluffy wish-fulfillment masquerading as deeper fiction, and the result is an uneven mess. Even with a complete suspension of disbelief, the story seems improbable at best. Half-baked characters and an underdeveloped plot make this one difficult to get through despite it’s very short length.
Even recognizing the story’s implausibility isn’t enough to make this one enjoyable. When Bobby decides to attend Whitestone as Rowan, the reader knows he won’t be able to keep up the facade for very long. Perhaps making things worse is the fact that Bobby is never a fully developed character, making his plight as a nice guy from the wrong side of the tracks fall completely flat. This is exceedingly apparent, especially when he starts talking about the night his father abused his mother: it’s supposed to be upsetting, and it is, but it also feels incredibly manipulative.
Nothing about the story feels authentic in any way. Bobby’s ultimate success at Whitestone feels completely undeserved and is largely underwhelming, as far as culminating events go. Everything about this novel was underwhelming, except for the weirdly culturally insensitive and racist comments about Native Americans.
Definitely worth skipping. It might work for reluctant readers (especially male ones), but there are so many better options out there it hardly seems worth it.
Also Known as Rowan Pohi by Ralph Fletcher. Clarion Books: 2011. Library copy. Read for 2012 Cybils Round 1 Panel.