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—except 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 8–12. Agent: Bridget Smith, Dunham Literary. (Feb.)