Tuesday, September 3, 2013
The Saturday Boy by David Fleming
To comfort himself, Derek reads and rereads the letters his dad has sent him over the course of Derek's young life - all 91 of them kept in his dad's old plastic Knight Rider lunch box. Derek has read the letters so often he know which letters to read when he wants them to say exactly what he needs them to say.
Derek also has a fondness for comic books, and superheroes, like Zeroman and Dinoman, something he used to share with Budgie. Now, though, Budgie has become pretty mean to Derek, making his life miserable every chance he can at school.
Derek's own lack of focus makes him an easy target for a bully like Budgie - which is how he earned the nickname Saturday boy. Budgie and his mom found Derek waiting at the school bus stop in the pouring rain on Saturday morning. And by Monday morning, everyone knew about it.
Budgie continues to be antagonist to Derek in school. When the boys are back at school, after spending a fun (at least for Derek) day playing at Budgie house, Budgie humiliates Derek in front of the other kids, even letting him know that Derek is his archenemy. Later, when Derek seeks revenge, it backfires. Hurt and angry, Derek takes to magic markers and the boys' room wall to express his feelings about Derek, which earns him a trip to the principle's office, and a call home to his already stressed out, somewhat distracted mom.
Just when Derek's 11 year old life seems like to couldn't get any more difficult for him, he learns that his dad's helicopter has been shot down and his dad didn't survive. Suddenly, everything changes for Derek.
I picked this book up to read rather reluctantly last Sunday. I wasn't in much of a reading mood, but I had to read it for something. It didn't take long to become riveted to Derek's story and I finished the book a few hours later. What a surprise! I loved it.
Engagingly told in the first person by Derek, it is exactly the kind of coming of age story I am most attracted to. When I first started reading, I thought maybe Derek was a little slow, he seemed to miss social sures and other things, but his lack of attention, I think, is perfectly normal for kids who have a parent deployed in a war zone. And in that respect, David Fleming is spot on with his depiction of Derek and his anxiety, his anger and his distractedness and, for that matter, of his mother, a nurse who loses herself in her job.
The Saturday Boy is funny, sad, realistic and compelling. It's not about bullying per se, though Fleming skillfully gives the reader a nice look into the mind of a bully, making what he does understandable, but without condoning it. Budgie is, after all, what Derek's father calls "a target rich environment," overweight, with a terrible nickname covering a really embarrassing first name. Vulnerable to bullying himself, he recognizes Derek's vulnerability and attacks before being attacks.
The Saturday Boy is Fleming's debut and definitely one that you surely don't want to miss.
This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL