My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Gary Schmidt has been one my more pleasant discoveries this year. When I first started listening to the audio version of Wednesday Wars, I though it was going to be a silly “adventures of a 7th grader” type of story with no real underlying meaning. But as the story went on, it got deeper, and we’re introduced to the wonderful, and often terrifying, world of a 7th grade boy in 1968.
1968, as you may know, was a year that nearly tore this country apart. Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, Vietnam was turning into the nightmare it would be remembered for and public support was slipping fast, and America was at a cultural crossroads.
In the midst of this chaos, which Schmidt does an incredible job of weaving into the story, we have the usual turmoil of a 7th grade boy entering his first year of middle school.
And it all sounds so familiar, be it 1968 or 2014. His teacher hates him an plots assassination attempts, has him read Shakespeare plays outside of his normal school work, and even has him clean the cage of two huge rats, which escape and cause havoc for the rest of the school year. Our hero also deals with his first maybe-girlfriend, bullies, a father only interested in his career, a sister who runs off to California to find herself, and a litany of other problems that anyone who has survived the 7th grade can relate to.
Like I said, though, the book does have meaning. The teacher, as it turns out, has a husband in Vietnam. This becomes crucial near the book’s end. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that our hero learns much more than Shakespeare and sentence structure.
The Wednesday Wars is a beautiful coming of age story fit kids 9 to 90. The tears will flow, so keep the tissue handy. And keep the rats in the cage.