Occasionally I’ve reviewed a book here that I have read/used for school. I’ve been sitting on Totally Joe for a while (and for a reason).
Totally Joe is the story of Joe Bunch, lovable misfit and celebrity wannabe from Paintbrush Falls, New York. Like his longtime best friends Addie, Skeezie, and Bobby, Joe's been called names all his life. So when he's given the assignment to write his alphabiography -- the story of his life from A to Z -- Joe has his doubts. This whole thing could be serious ammunition for bullying if it falls into the wrong hands.
But Joe discovers there's more to the assignment -- and his life -- than meets the eye. Especially when he gets to the letter C, which stands for Colin Briggs, the coolest guy in the seventh grade (seriously) -- and Joe's secret boyfriend.
By the time Joe gets to the letter Z, he's pretty much bared his soul about everything. And Joe's okay with that because he likes who he is. He's Totally Joe, and that's the best thing for him to be.
Here is an exuberant, funny, totally original story of one boy's coming out -- and coming-of-age.
More below the cut
Totally Joe is a great book for kids, especially ones dealing with being different and not fitting in, but reading this one as an adult was, well, amazing. Howe has one of the best voices I have ever read on paper. Almost every line is funny (hard to do and not force it) and his ability to recreate situations and deliver dialogue is stunning. I read TJ in one day and couldn’t stop laughing and the book hasn’t stayed on the shelf since. My kids love it and I highly recommend it. Even if you’re a grown up, even if you’re straight, Totally Joe is more than just a great read, it’s an experience.
Interview with James Howe
So, why have I been sitting on the review for so long? Well, because I want to do my own alphabiography, of course! Let’s call it a New Year’s Challenge! Every week, I plan (hope) to post a new letter of the alphabet. In six months, my very own alphabiography should be complete!
Buy Totally Joe here!
Joe Bunch, The Early Years:
"My mom says that I played wedding for about a year and that I kept asking everybody if they would marry me. Even Jeff. (That was the only time anyone can remember Jeff threatening to clobber me on a regular basis.) I had my Lainy doll marry my Ken doll. I also had her marry some of my Barbies. And G.I. Joe. (I hated that the soldier doll had my name. I mean, please. I didn't play with him much. He was another Christmas present from my clueless grandparents. One time when they were visiting, my grandpa asked me if G.I. Joe had been in any wars lately. I said, 'No, but he and Ken got married last week.' Every Christmas since then, my grandparents have sent me a check.)”