Another from the Tenner ARC tour, here's the synopsis of this middle-grade novel by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich: For middle schooler Reggie McKnight, being called “Pukey” is the least of his problems. School elections are coming up, but he’s as far away from being school President as he is from shutting down his enemy Donovan or meeting up with the beautiful Mialonie. His friends Ruthie and Joe C. have his back, but let’s face it: Reggie can only be a superhero on the pages of his graphic novel, Night Man.
Then Reggie gets involved with a local homeless shelter, the Olive Branch. Haunted by two of the clients there -- George, a once proud man now living on the streets, and five-year-old Charlie, who becomes his official “Little Buddy” -- he begins to think about making a difference, both in the world and at school. Pukey for President? It can happen...if he starts believing.
I really enjoyed this one. It was longer than I'd expected for a middle-grade novel, 322 pages, but the story never dragged, nothing felt superfluous and the result was characters that felt very real, well developed and memorable. Olugbemisola took her time working toward events in the story, letting them unfold rather than "happen". And she avoided cliched happy-endings, not just at the end, but throughout. Characters don't always get what they're hoping for, but maybe they get a different version of it or learn something about themselves in the not-getting. All of this works together to form a story that feels natural and wholly believable. Characters don't so much change as uncover their hidden strengths. Just like in the real world.