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The Schwa was Here

The Schwa was Here

4.5 39
by Neal Shusterman

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They say his clothes blend into the background, no matter where he stands. They say a lot of things about the Schwa, but one thing’s for sure: no one ever noticed him. Except me. My name is Antsy Bonano, and I was the one who realized the Schwa was “functionally invisible” and used him to make some big bucks. But I was also the one who caused him


They say his clothes blend into the background, no matter where he stands. They say a lot of things about the Schwa, but one thing’s for sure: no one ever noticed him. Except me. My name is Antsy Bonano, and I was the one who realized the Schwa was “functionally invisible” and used him to make some big bucks. But I was also the one who caused him more grief than a friend should. So if you all just shut up and listen, I’ll tell you everything there is to know about the Schwa, from how he got his name, to what really happened with his mom. I’ll spill everything. Unless, of course, “the Schwa Effect” wipes him out of my brain before I’m done….

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Eighth-grade Brooklynite "Antsy" Bonano narrates this quirky tale of how a classmate, Charles Schwa, who seems to appear and disappear in thin air, acts as a catalyst among an unlikely crew. Ages 8-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Calvin Schwa is a boy so bland and colorless, so utterly unremarkable and unmemorable that his new, and only, friend, Anthony (Antsy) Bonano, does science experiments to investigate the "Schwa Effect"—the degree to which Calvin can be present but utterly unnoticed by everyone. But the Schwa Effect fails on the doomed day that Calvin is dared to enter the dark and dog-ridden apartment of Old Man Crawley, a famous neighborhood recluse, to steal one of his dog bowls. The incident leads both Antsy and the Schwa into ever deeper involvement in Old Man Crawley's life, as he sentences them to walk his fourteen dogs, named after the seven deadly sins and seven cardinal virtues, and to befriend his blind (and attractive) granddaughter. Shusterman's characters are larger (and stranger) than life, and the events of the story are similarly exaggerated and bizarre, all narrated by Antsy in chapters with titles like "Which Is Worse: Getting Mauled by a Pack of Dogs, or Getting Your Brains Bashed Out by a Steel Poker?" and "Maybe They Had It Right in France Because Getting My Head Lopped Off by a Guillotine Would Have Been Easier." It all adds up to a thoughtful, though decidedly odd, parable on self-identity and the degree to which we need to have our existence recognized and validated by others. 2004, Dutton, Ages 10 to 14.
—Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
Anthony Bonana, Antsy to his friends, is an eighth grade Brooklyn youth with a story to tell about the Schwa: a guy his age who seems to be practically invisible. As the middle child of his lively Italian family, Antsy feels a bit difficult to notice himself sometimes, so he befriends the Schwa. From their experiments on just how invisible the Schwa can be, to walking fourteen huge Afghan dogs named after the Sins and the Vices for the scariest old man in the neighborhood, to falling in love with the same girl, Antsy and the Schwa grow closer and then apart. But throughout their misadventures, Antsy remains stubbornly set on finding out how the Schwa's mother disappeared because he worries that the Schwa, too, might totally disappear and that is something he is determined to prevent. Through learning more about the Schwa, Antsy discovers a good deal about himself as well. Antsy is one funny narrator whose observations-"He's about as creative as a bar code"-imperfections, and escapades make him extremely likeable. Antsy deals with problems that middle school boys will understand: parents who argue, friends who can be too judgmental, and girls who are just tough to figure out. The supporting cast of characters-from cranky old Mr. Crawley and his lovely blind granddaughter, Lexis, to Antsy's friends and family-are quirky and enjoyable as well. Middle school readers will find Shusterman has created yet another very readable and refreshingly different story. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, Dutton, 272p., Ages 11 to 15.
—Mary AnnDarby
A schwa is "a diacritic marking silence instead of a vowel sound," according to Webster's, and the name is appropriate for Calvin Schwa, who is "functionally invisible"—nobody ever notices him, even when they're standing next to him. Anthony, known as Antsy, "an eighth-grade wiseass" living in Brooklyn, befriends the Schwa, as he calls him. Antsy himself sometimes feels invisible as the middle child in his family, while the Schwa's mother vanished when he was five. There are lots of plotlines here, as the two pull pranks based on the Schwa's ability to be overlooked, and end up walking dogs for cranky Old Man Crawley and serving as escorts for his feisty blind granddaughter while becoming rivals for her affection; there are also subplots about Antsy's parents, Antsy's attempts to find out what happened to the Schwa's mother, attempts to destroy a crash test dummy, and more. There is also lots of humor: a typical chapter heading is "Earthquakes, Nuclear Winter, and the End of Life as We Know It, over Linguini," and the dialog is fast and funny. This ode to friendship has got lots going on, and younger YAs will be entertained by Antsy's antics and his wisecracking comments on them. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2004, Penguin Putnam, Dutton, 276p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Eighth-grader "Antsy" Bonano recounts how his accidental relationship with three quirky characters winds up being mutually beneficial. The catalyst in this social collision is Calvin Schwa, a classmate who has an almost supernatural knack for going completely unnoticed. When Antsy decides to become an "agent" for the "nearly invisible" Schwa by entertaining wagers on what he can get away with by being able to fly almost entirely beneath the social radar, the boys enjoy temporary success until they accept a dare requiring "The Schwa" to enter the home of a legendary local eccentric and retrieve a dog bowl belonging to any one of his 14 Afghans. Crawley, a powerful restaurateur who also happens to be severely agoraphobic, nabs the unlikely young intruders, and the crusty shut-in orders them to return daily to walk his dogs in exchange for their impunity. Once Antsy has gained Crawley's trust, he is asked to perform another task: to act as a companion for the man's blind granddaughter, Lexie. Antsy is then flanked by two peers-one who cannot see and one who cannot be seen-and, together, they overcome their collective liabilities through friendship, improving their own lives and the lives of those around them. Antsy tells his story in a bubbly Beastie Boys-meet-Bugs Bunny Brooklynese that keeps the pages flipping, and Shusterman's characters-reminiscent of those crafted by E. L. Konigsburg and Jerry Spinelli-are infused with the kind of controlled, precocious improbability that magically vivifies the finest children's classics.-Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Calvin Schwa is special, see? Well, no, because you can't see him at all. The Schwa is disturbingly unnoticeable. For years he has been marked absent in school, and he has certainly never managed to make friends. When-with great difficulty-he intrudes upon the consciousness of Antsy and friends, the boys try to codify what they call "the Schwa effect." Will the Schwa be noticed spying in the teachers' lounge? Thumbing his nose at the principal? Standing in the boys' bathroom, wearing a Day-Glo orange sombrero, and singing "God Bless America" at the top of his lungs? Amidst their antics, Antsy and the Schwa come to the aid of a cranky and rich old man with a beautiful blind granddaughter, start national graffiti trends, and explore the Schwa's (quite interesting!) paperclip collection. It's all fun and games until friendships dissolve. Will the mysterious Night Butcher provide the Schwa with clues to his unwanted invisibility? The presence of stock characters and subplots doesn't detract from the cleverness and humor of this tall tale. (Fiction. 11-15)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
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Penguin Group
Sales rank:
790L (what's this?)
File size:
776 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Neal Shusterman is an award-winning author and screenwriter.  He lives in Southern California with his four children.

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The Schwa Was Here 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
gracie_the_great More than 1 year ago
This is the Best Book I have read in a while. I was kind of stuck in a reading rut and my librarian recommended this. I think a lot of kids either feel like Antsy or the Schwa a lot of the time so even if it is far fetched. There is a sequel called Antsy Does Time that is almost better than this one.
ME_ME_EME_ME_MEE More than 1 year ago
I needed a book to read for class, so I went to the library and checked this out. I was looking for a different kind of book than I usually read, and I never read the inside flap or back of a book to see what happens, so I was totally surprised with this. I couldn't put it down. It's like nothing I've heard about before... Not totally invisible, but partially.
Book_Worm_1998 More than 1 year ago
I don't think this was one of my favorite books, but I still kept reading the book, and I think it started to get better as you kept reading it. Check it out!
kenzo More than 1 year ago
the schwa was here. was a pleasant read, not to involved just story about a boy and the people he meets; their relationships, conflicts,and situations. main character antsy and newly befriended boy- Calvin have an idea to test if the Schwa effect is real, and contaigest. Calvin is the trite "nobody" everyone sees right threw him... hes not even there. it just so happens that antsy and him come across each other and pretty soon the experiment is put in motion. the results are, in fact, calvin schwa is semi-invisible. it takes place in the streets of new york city when one day the two friends lives are altered with a dare to sneak into the neighborhood grouch's home. they end up meeting an old man and his blind granddaughter who adds a lil bit of drama and love interest . the language through out the novel was easy to comprehend making this a young adult book. the main idea is a little basic but there are some conflicts that spice the story up more; family affairs, friends, and school are the highlights. the book was decent, nice ending- happily ever after deal. i would recommend this book to someone who doesn't particularly enjoy reading because its a quick read and is engrossing enough. the theme i grasped was; someone is there.. you are never truly lost or forgotten.
SecretBookshelf More than 1 year ago
I read The Schwa was Here because the author is really, really good.  (I will have a lot more reviews from him.)  And I wasn't disappointed.   This book is about a boy who is "functionally invisible" (that means not noticed) named Calvin Schwa, whom everyone calls The Schwa.  It is told from his friend, Antsy's, point of view.  They conduct experiments to see how far The Schwa can go unnoticed.  When they get caught, they have to work for some crazy old man.  But then this girl comes into play...   It is a wonderfully told book with twists and turns and a lot of comic relief.  I would really recommend reading it.  It has one of the best endings that I have ever read.  It's one of those endings which leaves you thinking about it constantly and thinking " Omg!  That was SO good!"  At least, it did for me. My one bit of confusion in the entire book was in the beginning, like the first page.  I thought that "dummy" meant "idiot" instead of  "puppet".  That was completely my fault, but I thought I would clear it up in case you get confused.  Anyway, if you're not sure of if you want to read it, read the first page or two.  I am 99% sure that you will love it. I think there is a second book: Antsy Does Time.  It may not be directly related, so I'll let you know once I read it.  In the meantime, I hope you read The Schwa was Here.  Let me know if you have any book you want me to read/ review.    
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book! I recomend this for an in-between book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Schwa was Here was a very good book with a storyline that interested me until the end. I think that children my age (age 11) would enjoy this book and it should be shared. Both boys and girls would like it. It's about a boy who was hardly noticed until another boy recognized his talents and befriends him. They share a close bond with each other so it's a story of friendship.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Anthony "Antsy" Bonano can't really figure out what's wrong with The Schwa. His classmate, Calvin Schwa, has always just been...around. A nondescript face on a nondescript kid, The Schwa always seems to just blend into the background, and could be standing right in front of you for half an hour before you even notice he's there - and that's only if he speaks up and says something. Antsy finds it difficult to even think about The Schwa without his mind wandering onto some other subject, no doubt due to "The Schwa Effect." Antsy may not have been the first the pass The Schwa by, but he is the first one to start putting his friend's power of blending in to good use. After a set of experiments to determine the strength of "The Schwa Effect," Antsy and The Schwa form a collaboration that starts earning them money for dares and services (such as spying on the faculty lounge) that utilize The Schwa's untapped potential. When a bold dare to enter the apartment of a reclusive neighbor goes horribly wrong, Antsy and The Schwa find themselves at the mercy of Old Man Crawley, who puts them to work to make up for their intrusion. The boys' friendship is put to the test when Antsy is given a...much more desirable task, which sets The Schwa on a mission to prove his very existence to the world in the grandest, most unforgettable manner possible. I absolutely fell in love with this book, and that is not something I'd say lightly. Superior characterization, mainly the shifting position of narrator Antsy as both protagonist and antagonist to the title character, had me rooting for nearly every personality featured in this story. My heart went out to the unfortunate Schwa, yet I think I laughed harder than ever at the witty storytelling and humor utilized by the author. A perfect book for the older, reluctant reader, and one both boys and girls can enjoy to the fullest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AnnieLeigh More than 1 year ago
This is a book that I can read over and over again. The first time I read it, it took me awhile to get to the end, but I liked it anyways. Now I find it to be a great thing to read when I have a break from school or haven't gotten to the library in a while.(I own a copy) The first chapter is slow, but once Calvin Schwa is introduced, it picks up pace for a great story! The end is really good also, which is saying something. I'm very hard to please with book endings. Read it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a 7th grade English teacher I am always on the lookout for good books for my students. When I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down. I now read it aloud to my seventh graders and they absolutely love it! They beg me to keep reading! It is witty, and interesting. Neil does a wonderful job in his descriptive detail. I highly recommend this book to anyone!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When my neighboor gave me the book to read, i read the title and thought that the book looked really stupid. Then i started reading and couldn't stop. This book is one of the best books i have ever read. It is really funny because it was told through first person point of view so you hear what the narrator(or Antsy as he is called in the book) is thinking. I was sitting on the beach reading this one day and just started laughing out loud. This is a must read!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was funny and quirky. Sometimes it was boring, and it didnt really hold my interest. There was nothing wrong with it, it was just nothing special. Its a good book for when you have nothing else to read or do.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was so funny. Just the way the characters in the book talked, it was awesome. I kind of thought the end was a little sad but the rest of the book was so good it didn't matter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It all started with an 'unbreakable' dummy named Manny who is the start the story. Anthony and his friends Howie and Ira are trying to blow up this dummy when Calvin Schwa shows up. Anthony and the Schwa discover the 'Schwa effect', which makes them earn money and popularity for the Schwa's unnoticable presence. The Schwa and Anthony's confidence winds them in trouble with the meanest, richest man in Brooklyn, Old Man Crawley. Instead of punishing them with the police, he makes them do community service, which is ironic since they work for him without getting paid. Their job is to walk his sins and virtues, which are afghan dogs. Anthony 'Ansty' later on gets the job of escorting Crawley's blind grandaughter, Lexie, who captures the heart of the Schwa and Ansty, though Ansty feels ashamed of betraying his friend. In the end, Ansty shows true friendship to The Schwa when he solves the mystery of The Schwa's disappearing mom. In the end, the resolution of the story is satisfying to any reader who is captured in this great book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book targets young adults and fits the genre of realistic contemporary fiction. The characters are developed to such an extent that you are moved emotionally to identify with them. The author keeps your attention with unique character names and terminology. He has created an interesting story that you will want to continue to read to find out what will happen next.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although you may forget Calvin Schwa, you WILL not forget this book. I bought, I read it, I loved it! Get and read it, it's amazing!