I liked some things about The Year of Billy Miller. I did. But. I didn't quite "love, love, love" The Year of Billy Miller. I liked that it balanced school stories with family stories. There would be scenes set in the classroom, with the teacher, perhaps, or with his classmates. There would be scenes set at home with Billy interacting with his dad, his mom, his sister, his best friend.
I thought Henkes did a much better job with the home scenes, the family stuff, than the school stuff. I did get a good sense of Billy Miller's home, what his family was like, the dynamics of those relationships. I really liked seeing Billy challenge himself here. For example, his love-hate relationship with his younger sister. Sometimes he HATES her (like when she "adds" glitter to his school project), and sometimes he LOVES her (like when he goes to her bedroom and wakes her up because he's scared and doesn't want to be alone). I thought there were some sweet and tender scenes between Billy and the individual members of his family.
I was not as impressed with Billy's school life, however. I thought the book started off promising with Billy trying to impress his new teacher, his biggest desire earning her love and respect, wanting to be thought one of the "good" kids in the room, etc. And in the few scenes we see with the teacher, well, it works well enough, I suppose. But what this book lacked that other books for this age group don't is memorable classmates. The school stuff just didn't work for me as well. The characterization just wasn't there, the descriptions just weren't there. Part of me liked the fact that the book was so rushed and that it was more a series of novellas than an actual novel, the other part of me wanted more continuity and less jumping about in time. (The first chapter starts with the first day of school; the last chapter finishes off the school year.)
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews