cover image Jason and the Losers

Jason and the Losers

Gina Willner-Pardo. Clarion Books, $14.95 (120pp) ISBN 978-0-395-70160-7

Sluggish development and too loudly trumpeted a message impair this middling middle-grade novel. Jason has always fit in with his classmates but, when he is sent to stay with relatives following his parents' divorce, the boys at his new school automatically group him with his nerdy ``loser'' cousin Everett. Anxious for friends, Jason wows the popular guys with his athletic prowess and, at the same time, he not only distances himself from Everett but publicly embarrasses him. Before this obvious story reaches its conclusion, of course, Jason learns the value of friendship and regrets his cruelty. Too much of the story is hinged on the shaky premise of winners and losers, and the very terms become tiresome in their overuse. Even with Willner-Pardo's (What I'll Remember When I Am a Grown-up) dogged emphasis on this theme, Jason's conflicting feelings over regarding his different sets of friends and his ambivalence about each group's qualities never believably cohere. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)