Title: Because of Mr. Terupt
Author: Rob Buyea
ISBN: 9780385738828
Pages: 269 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, c2010.
Publication Date: October 12, 2010

I didn’t know Mr. T was going to be right there.
Mr. Terupt stood up. Right in the way.
I still remember Alexia’s scream. Piercing. Horrified.
I didn’t want to hurt anyone.
Mr. Terupt should have stopped us. He let it go too far.
I wish I could take it back. I didn’t mean to throw it.
Please let my teacher be okay.
Dear God, It’s Danielle. I really need you down here. Mr. Terupt needs you. (135-142)

“It’s the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. There’s Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school. Only Mr. Terupt, their new and energetic teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes the classroom a fun place, even if he doesn’t let them get away with much . . . until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything– and everyone.” (jacket copy)

I think this is one of the first, if not the first time that I’ve resorted to the jacket copy of the book to summarize the story. I don’t think I could ever improve on that description, as they summarized the story very succinctly and effectively, and still keeps readers guessing what happened. The design of this book is also nice, and it’s something I rarely comment on here. But with the generous chapter headings and white space whenever the narrator changes (which is quite often) and the large font, the reading flies by, and I finished the whole book in about two hours time. While some might see it as wasted space, I see it as providing a substantial break to allow readers to shift gears in the narration. Additionally, the extra pages gives a nice heft to the book. The jacket and cover art is also engaging and eye-catching, and I think the Harry Bliss is who did the jacket art is the same Harry Bliss who wrote Diary of a Worm. Can anyone confirm this for me?

I’m not commenting on everything else because the story was just okay. The story was fabulous! While most teachers I know would think 20 students in a classroom is an optimistically small classroom, I’m willing to over look that little quibble. My other little quibble is with Luke, who doesn’t really change past the initial introduction of being the class brainiac. All the other students have some home life issues that affect their school life and their attitudes and actions evolve over the course of the story, while Luke stays stagnant in a way. Even with that complaint, I like Luke and Jessica! It’s nice that you see two smart kids in one class, a girl and boy, AND that they aren’t picked on constantly because of their intelligence. The bully, Alexia, is multi-dimensional, and you get a feel as to why she’s doing what she’s doing without it being preachy. Peter and Jeffrey are two more characters that caught my attention and held it, due to Peter’s attitude and Jeffrey’s secret. The emotions are all there, especially after the accident, with guilt, forgiveness, drama, jealousy, and maybe even a budding romance if readers look hard enough. We’ll all have to wait to see what happens to these students from Connecticut until fall 2012, when this debut author publishes the sequel. I’ll be looking forward to it.