Twelve-year-old Owen and his sister attend a progressive New York City school where there are no desks, Just workstations. Which are basically desks. Despite the school motto, Compassion, Not Competition, overweight Owen is victimized by his sadistic gym teacher as well as by many fellow students. In his spare time, he attempts to construct a video playback time machine in order to discover who murdered his parents two years earlier. Slowly, Owen realizes whom he can trust and what matters to him now. Self-aware and ironic, Owen makes a sympathetic narrator. Readers will also enjoy the portrayals of his younger sister Caitlin, who insists that her name is Jeremy now that she's joined GWAB (Girls Who Are Boys), and transfer student/outcast Mason Rigg, who, rumor has it, carries a switchblade tucked into his sock. Loose ends that appear in the narrative early on are tied up a little too neatly by the end, but the vividly drawn characters offer plenty to enjoy along the way.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2009 Booklist
Gr 6-8-Owen is the fattest-and smartest-seventh grader in his New York City school. When he's not ducking the school bully or trying to survive the world's most sadistic P.E. teacher, he invents things. Currently Owen has two projects-a TV that will show events in the past and a trap to catch the thief who keeps stealing the Oreos from his lunchbox. There's a lot of middle school banter and adolescent dialogue. However, what begins as a lighthearted adventure gradually takes on a darker tone. Owen calls his invention Nemesis and insists that it needs to reach exactly two years back. As the story evolves, readers learn that there are places in town where he feels distinctly uncomfortable, and that he treasures a note that says only "SLOB." Step by step, Owen reveals the tragedy behind his concerns. Two years earlier, he was hiding in the basement of the family store, listening as his parents were killed by an intruder. Adopted by the 911 operator who took his call after the murders, he dreams of identifying the perpetrator. Although Nemesis fails to solve the crime, Owen is finally able to find closure, with help from his sister, their friends, and, surprisingly, from the dreaded bully himself. A sensitive, touching, and sometimes heartbreakingly funny picture of middle school life.-Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL0 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.