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As he tries to find his way in this new world, Ethan also struggles with issues from the world he left behind — guilt about the events surrounding his suspension, anxiety about his parents' separation, loneliness for the company of his family and friends.
Slowly, Ethan adjusts. He makes a few friends; he joins the jazz band and learns a new instrument; he even gets used to dried-out dinners at 4:30 pm. Along the way he learns a lot about prejudice and acceptance — and about himself and his changing family situation.
After he's suspended from his middle school in suburban Philadelphia, Ethan is sent to live with his maternal grandparents in Washington, DC. He learns that he'll attend Parker Junior High-in a uniform from "ValuBuy." The boy feels suspended not only from his old school, but in time, as well. Every aspect of his life is changing radically. His parents have separated and his sister has started college in California. Life with his grandparents starkly contrasts with life in the suburbs. Not only is their city neighborhood a bit seedy, but Ethan is also the only white kid on the block and at school; there are no malls to hang out in and the only technology in his grandparents' home is a rotary phone. But during the fall, Ethan learns about the strength of his family and the turbulent times that helped shape them, begins to accept his parents' divorce, and figures out that assumptions about people can be way off base. In other words, he grows during his time away from Maple Heights. His first-person narration presents a different take on being an outsider. He's white and Jewish, middle class and suburban-raised in a challenged, gritty inner-city area. Details about the nation's capital appear (and more importantly, feel) accurate. Though message-driven with many convenient coincidences (saved by the suburbs-Ethan returns to his comfortable life and his grandparents' neighbors move to a DC suburb), this novel does provide a look at a not-often-seen side of life in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, because of its heavy-handedness, it is not likely to be embraced by the intended audience.
—Maria B. SalvadoreCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.