Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Schwa Was Here - Neal Shusterman

Summary: They say his clothes blend into the background, no matter where he stands. They say if you stare at him long enough, you can see what's written on the wall behind him.. They say a lot of things about the Schwa, but one thing's for sure: No one ever noticed him. Except me. My name is Antsy Bonano--and I can tell you what's true and what's not, 'cause I was there. So if you all just shut up and listen, I'll tell you everything there is to know about the Schwa, from how he got his name to what really happened with his mom. I'll spill everything. Unless, of course, "the Schwa Effect" wipes him out of my brain before I'm done...

My review: I started this book for curiosities’ sake--the summary peaked my interest and the blurb at the beginning sealed the deal. What was this SCHWA?? Why was he so hard to see? It was all very mysterious. First, a little informational tidbit.

A schwa is the most common vowel sound in the English language. It is the sound “uh” ...

--like the 'a' in about [əˈbaʊt]
--like the 'i' in pencil [ˈpɛnsəl]
--like the 'o' in eloquent [ˈɛləkwənt]
--like the 'u' in supply [səˈplaɪ]
--like the 'y' in sibyl [ˈsɪbəl]
--like the 'e' in taken [ˈteɪkən]

It also is less noticeable in words like the “e” in “overlook” or the “a” in “forgettable.”
Just like the grammatical schwa, 14-year old Calvin Schwa is often overlooked. Teachers don’t see him in class and forget to give him report cards. He can stand in the middle of the bathroom wearing a day-glo orange sombrero and singing “God Bless America” and no one will notice. The Schwa blends right in. The narrator, Anthony “Antsy” Bonano, is the Schwa’s only friend and even he has a hard time seeing him.

I’ll let you know now that I ADORED this book. I never thought that’d I’d say that about a book written from the first –person perspective of a 14 year old boy, but I freely admit it now. Shusterman’s writing is blunt, clever, and hysterical perfection. I giggled and snorted (yes, but only a little) my way through its’ pages—reading chapters titled “The Lowest-Paid Male Escort on the entire Eastern Seaboard, Except for Maybe the Bronx” and “Maybe They Had It Right in France Because Getting My Head Lopped Off by a Guillotine Would Have Been Easier.” I cracked up at least once every five minutes, usually from small phrases or just the way that Antsy said something. He described the Schwa’s forgettable face as being made from mental Teflon, and expression I’d never heard before but will endeavor to use in the future. Antsy is a extremely creative and intelligent kid who manages to hide it from those closest to him—which is not too terribly hard since he deals with his own kind of invisibility at home. Calvin Schwa, has a heartbreaking back story, and you can’t help rooting for him to be truly SEEN throughout the book. The supporting characters are just quirky enough to be lovable even if one of them is insanely grumpy.

Overall, I thought the book’s premise, of a boy who can’t be seen until people notice him, was very original and far less done than, say, a boy who finds a dragon egg (trust me…there are a ton of those). The underlying theme of The Schwa Was Here, is about not being seen, and how we can all feel that way during our lives. Many characters in the book deal with the issue of “invisibility” in different ways. While some people express it differently, ultimately it is up to them to get noticed. I had a blast reading this book. While the story didn’t end exactly how I wanted it to, I felt it ended well. I connected with the characters and got invested in their lives, however briefly.

My rating: 5 Stars. Though it's written for ages 9-12, this book would make a great read aloud book to your 8 year old as long as you allow for some very teensy language editing.

Sum it up in one phrase: Giggle...giggle...snort...giggle...snicker


Shauna said...

I am new here! What a great blog :)

MindySue said...

Shauna! Thankyou so much--you just made me smile from ear to ear! Welcome! WE love feedback, so have fun! Please let us know what you think and would like to see.


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