cover image Superstar


Mandy Davis. Harper, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-237777-7

In an excellent first novel, Davis channels the idiosyncratic perspective and voice of Lester, a 10-year-old stargazer, as he makes the difficult transition from homeschooling to fifth grade. Layers of unspoken grief for Lester’s astronaut father, who died five years earlier, loom large, especially because Lester’s mother resists her son’s avid interest in space. When she takes a job at the library and Lester starts school, Davis strongly sketches how his personality and quirks make for a difficult adjustment: Lester struggles with a bully, can’t stand the cacophony of the cafeteria, lacks tact and social skills, calls out in class, and doesn’t handle schedule changes well. Lester is an immensely sympathetic narrator as he navigates a friendship with a fashion-forward classmate, competes in the science fair, and participates in a kickball game. When he opens an official letter addressed to his mother, he discovers that he’s been diagnosed with “autism spectrum disorder” and works to understand what that means. This unsentimental portrait of an endearing and memorable protagonist offers powerful insight into living with autism. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (June)