cover image 95 POUNDS OF HOPE


Anna Gavalda, . . Viking, $14.99 (90pp) ISBN 978-0-670-03672-1

Gregory Dubosc, the 13-year-old narrator of this debut novel from France, is a twice-flunked sixth-grader who hates school. But while the author assigns him a host of problems—feuding parents who focus their discord on him, abysmal grades, teasing from schoolmates—she doesn't convincingly explain his academic woes. A battery of specialists have diagnosed Gregory with Attention Deficit Disorder, a notion that Gregory dismisses—and which readers will, too, because Gregory concentrates with great intensity on the activities that interest him, such as making things with his hands and woodworking with his grandfather. Expelled from what appears to be a private school and sent to the substandard public school, Gregory dreams of attending a technical school, but his record is too weak. Urged by his grandfather, Gregory writes to that school and explains, "Personally, I think that grades are not all there is to life. Motivation is just as important... I am not very big: I weigh 95 pounds of hope." This statement may strike readers as discordant, as it is perhaps Gregory's only expression of optimism. The resolution departs from the earlier realism of the story: the voice of his then-comatose grandfather coaches Gregory through entrance exams to the dream school, and Gregory later repays the favor, psychically pouring his strength into his grandfather's recuperation. As a result, the happy ending feels hollow. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)