this book with a group of kids and have a discussion. I imagine that anyone with a book club or reading group of 4th-7th graders added this to their list of titles. The author brings up so many adolescent topics and themes in the context of a boy who feels normal but physically is not. Most of the supporting characters mirrored this with deceiving appearances hiding something emotional or internal. I thought that was just terrific.
I also liked learning about the other characters through their own voices. I wasn't expecting to read Via, Justin, Will, and Summer's thoughts and I thought the author worked that in nicely. Sometimes their narrations would overlap what August just experienced, but often their sections advanced the story which takes place over his 5th grade year. (note: I kept thinking they were older than 5th grade, in part because in this book 5th grade is middle school.)
There are great pop culture references to Star Wars, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Tolkien. I was not as impressed with the song quotes.
All of this praise aside, I would be surprised if this took the Newbery. Yes, it earned loads of starred reviews and made many Newbery prediction lists. Yes, it is a terrific book that kids will also likely enjoy very much, which is not always the case with a Newbery Award winner. But for me, outside of the character of August I didn't find the writing exceptionally distinguished.