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VOYAThis novel follows Travis and Chantelle, the weird kids in their rural Canadian town, through junior high. They initially join together because no one else will befriend them, but they grow inseparable and their oddball families also become connected. In the three-year span of the story, the reader watches the big city entice good teachers, Travis's mother, and eventually even Travis away from their small town, leaving the less gifted citizens behind. A cast of complex characters alternately supports Travis and Chantelle and pulls them down, but despite hard times, bickering, and name-calling, their families come through for them when it matters. The two work with their talents and around their weaknesses by developing increasingly elaborate puppet shows, and they make some new friends in the process. The settings—the local thrift store, a trailer house stacked on top of another one, a former dormitory turned into a home—are as eclectic and memorable as the characters. Huser, a former school librarian, includes some good literary references, especially in a very funny description of class presentations of novels. He rewards his readers with an unsentimental mix of good and bad times, three-dimensional gay and disabled characters, and realistic blue-collar life. Teachers will use this book in their classrooms, but it will appeal to leisure readers as well. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 198p., Ages 11 to 15.