I love when fiction tells such a relatable, powerful story that the reader has to consider their own lives, their own judgments/thoughts, and how to change the world around them because of actions told within a story.
When I find myself talking about a book to others around me while and after I read it, I know it’s impacting me in positive and challenging ways. The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds (Thomas Nelson/Blink, 2015) was one I found easy to want to talk about.
From the publisher:
Atticus Hobart couldn’t feel worse. Not only does he have the world’s most overactive imagination, he’s in love with a girl he can’t talk to, is the class bully’s personal punching bag, and to top it all off, his dad just left the family. Into this drama steps Mr. Looney, an older than dirt and crazier than insanity itself seventy-seven-year-old substitute English teacher with a very unconventional approach to teaching. But Atticus soon discovers there’s more to Mr. Looney’s methods than he’d first thought. And as Atticus begins to unlock the meaning behind his own name, he finds that his imagination can help him forge his own voice, and maybe-just maybe-show him that the power to face his problems was inside him all along.
If I could give comparable tiles for this book, I’d actually liken it to something like the school-focused movie Stand and Deliver in many ways and even a little like Dead Poets Society in regards to the teacher (not necessarily so in plot, so don’t worry). The teacher, Mr. Looney, is an inspiring, interesting, unique character full of intrigue and wisdom (but wisdom shared in relatable and readable ways). The main character, Atticus, also offers much for readers to relate to — he’s not popular, he has struggles at home, he feels he’s unable to please his father and finds it hard to connect with possible friends.
The plot keeps the reader turning with action, questions, thoughtful observations and more. The author paces the information revealed and action very well, with high intensity scenes following by “quieter” scenes to allow the reader to recover and consider. While this isn’t a perfect book (I wondered why no one would see or hear one instance of bullying in the school … noise carried very easily in the halls of my high school; the ending felt a bit rushed though wrapped up satisfactorily without everything ending “perfectly”), it’s one that could spark important and needed conversations for ages 13ish and up. (Because of some tough themes, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend under 13, and definitely pre-read first for that age or younger.) The author weaves themes of bullying, acceptance, unconditional love, true community, the negative impact of seeking power, truth, true courage, and redemption in various ways.
Teachers (and parents) reading this book along with their students/kids can ask questions to gather what their readers feel about these realistic situations (with both school relationships and family relationships). The book also incorporates a bit of literature (namely, To Kill a Mockingbird, but also a bit more) and information about reading and writing/revising that could spur an educational unit along with the book.
“Courage is the ability to keep going no matter how hard life feels.” – p. 160
What is one of your (or your family’s) favorite books that cause to reflect and actually inspire change your own thoughts/actions?
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook blogger program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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