I am definitely glad I chose to reread Neal Shusterman's The Schwa Was Here. I'm not exactly sure I loved it as much this second time, but, I am glad I reread it.
My reaction the first time I read this one--back in 2005--was that THIS WAS THE BEST, BEST, BEST book ever...at least of 2004. I was wowed by the characters of Schwa and Antsy. And smirked at the developing relationship between Old Man Crawley and Antsy. I thought it had heart and humor and a great narrative voice. And I still do, for the most part. I definitely think that Antsy is a GREAT narrator. The narrative voice in this one is so strong. Antsy can be very very funny in his observations--particularly in his observations about life, like how he compares life to a bad haircut, or change in life to a bad haircut. But he can also be authentic in some very tense, uncomfortable situations. In particular the tension-filled dynamics of his family. Never do readers get the idea that Antsy's life is one big joke after another. Readers see a blending of humor and pain. Which I think is authentic.
So the premise of this one is simple, Calvin Schwa is a middle schooler who, for the most part, remains invisible to teachers and students alike. They just don't see him. It's like he's not even there. Antsy does notice him, though even Antsy sometimes slips, and begins to make the Schwa a project of his. He decides to experiment to see the properties of the Schwa effect. The first few experiments are funny. Over-the-top ridiculous. But the experiments don't last forever, and the joke doesn't stay funny for long. Schwa may have enjoyed a couple of weeks of particular attention (not being taken seriously, mind you, not being seen for who he is, really is, but being the focus of a joke, a bet, a fad), but soon Antsy is his only friend. Almost. (A girl does enter into this.) How long can the Schwa go on being unseen and unheard? When will enough be enough? Can he turn his tragic non-life around?
I suppose the only thing that has changed in my rereading is that it doesn't strike me as truly being the best, best, best, best, best book ever. I still love it, I still really love it. I still seeing it as being a strong novel with a lot of heart and soul to it--a blending of emotions that make up life as we know it. I still love Antsy. I still love seeing a novel that addresses the invisibility of some kids. I still love seeing all the family drama.
Read The Schwa Was Here
- If you love Middle Grade Fiction
- If you love coming-of-age stories
- If you love stories with great narrators
- If you have room in your heart for a grumpy old man