Colin's IQ is off the charts, and he frequently observes details that other people miss. He records most of these observations in a notebook for future reference - a notebook recently defiled by his friend Melissa, who wrote her phone number in it. Colin has a hard time reading facial expressions, so he has practiced recognizing specific clues to match to moods with his therapist (see cover design). When a gun goes off in the school cafeteria during a casual celebration of Melissa's birthday, the community is in an uproar to find out who brought the gun to school, and why. Colin might be the most likely person to figure out who is responsible - but he might also be everyone else's most likely suspect.
Colin identifies himself as having Asperger's Syndrome, and his observations and notebook footnotes about topics of interest are intriguing. Some of his favorite things seem more distinctive to his character than others (only eating crunchy foods, for example, is more memorable than choosing a great white shark as your favorite sea predator). The book generally stays in Colin's point of view, but it occasionally hops to a few other characters in a few other places, using third person omniscient, making the narrative less cohesive. The book touches on bullying and class issues without being heavy-handed, but these things provide more opportunities for depth and discussion.
The jealousy and resentment that Colin's younger brother Danny feels toward Colin and the special treatment he often receives (that Danny perceives) is an interesting complexity that I wish were developed further. I appreciate a story about a person with Asperger's Syndrome in which having the syndrome itself is not the basis for the plot. The school does not accommodate Colin's diagnosis professionally - or legally responsibly, as an IEP is implied - which may frustrate readers.
Please note that this is not a book about a school shooting - a gun is accidentally fired without hurting anyone, and the story is a mystery to discover who brought the gun to school. There are a couple of mature references in this book, but it would not otherwise be too complex for a strong fifth grade reader.
"In forty-eight hours you've broken more rules, started more trouble, and caused more chaos than in all your fourteen years on this planet."
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