Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

{February 13, 2011}   The Schwa Was Here, by Neal Shusterman

From the dust jacket:  “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.  I was the one who realized the Schwa was “functionally invisible” and used him to make some big bucks. But I was also the one who caused him more grief than a friend should. So if you all just shut up and listen, I’ll spill everything. Unless, of course, “the Schwa Effect” wipes him out of my brain before I’m done….”


Unfortunatley, this is a very forgettable novel, which is ironic since The Schwa is also a forgettable character within the book… he is partially invisible and can only be seen if the characters in the novel really look hard.  I understand how The Schwa must feel, being unseen all the time, and I think this is a good coming of age novel for middle school students, perhaps even 9th graders, but beyond that, I don’t think the novel has much clout.  Now, Shusterman was writing for the specific age group just mentioned, so in that case, I think he does a pretty good job, but for the older crowd, those of us checking the novel out for our beloved young, it’s not so interesting.  One of the aspects of the writing that was disconcerting is that there seems to be no consistency in the dialogue/accent used.  In one sentence, the main character, Antsy, will say something using the Brooklyn accent, or say something completely ungrammatical, which is okay… but in the next sentence, he’ll say something that is out of character for him, something overtly grammatical, or something using exceptionally high vocabulary words, and it’s somewhat of a disconnect.  I wondered if maybe Antsy was doing this depending on his situation, like children sometimes do, but it’s not that either.  Antsy doesn’t speak one way in front of grown-ups, and one way in front of his peers, he just changes back and forth constantly, which I really didn’t like because I felt like the writing was forced.  It’s as if Shusterman wasn’t sure how a middle school student speaks, so he threw some random sentences into the mix.  I highly doubt tweens will notice, but I was not enamored by this novel.  Two stars. 


et cetera
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