cover image The Last Boy at St. Edith's

The Last Boy at St. Edith's

Lee Gjersten Malone. S&S/Aladdin, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4435-4

Malone's debut is a sweet, candid novel about fitting in, messing up, and making amends. After seventh grader Jeremy Miner's Massachusetts private school reverts to enrolling girls only, every boy at St. Edith's leaves%E2%80%94except him. Since his single mother is a school employee and he attends free of charge, it isn't an option. Malone creates a charmingly hapless protagonist in Jeremy, who, feeling outnumbered, decides that he'll attempt to get expelled. He enlists the aid of his friend, Claudia, a headstrong aspiring filmmaker, who announces a one-word strategy: "Pranks." Harmless shenanigans (such as assembling stolen garden gnomes at the school's entrance) turn dangerous when Jeremy and Claudia tamper with doorknobs, and a classmate has an asthma attack while locked in the bathroom. Jeremy's doubts about his scheme magnify when his innocent sister is implicated in a prank, and his mother learns the truth. Jeremy's self-deprecating, sardonic humor and Claudia's ample self-confidence generate some authentically funny episodes as Malone's story addresses individuality, conformity, and finding friendship. Ages 8%E2%80%9312. Agent: Bridget Smith, Dunham Literary. (Feb.)