Totally Joe [NOOK Book]


"Everybody says you and Colin were kissing."

"What? That's ...
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Totally Joe

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"Everybody says you and Colin were kissing."

"What? That's ridiculous!"

"For heaven's sake, Joe, if you and Colin want to kiss, you have every right to."

"We did not kiss," I told her.

Addie shrugged. "Whatever."

What was it with my friends?

From the creator of The Misfits, the book that inspired NATIONAL NO NAME-CALLING WEEK, comes the story of Joe Bunch....

As a school assignment, a thirteen-year-old boy writes an alphabiography--life from A to Z--and explores issues of friendship, family, school, and the challenges of being a gay teenager.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Delivering trenchant messages about tolerance, self-knowledge and the vacuity of teenage popularity, Howe's ultimately uplifting tale marks the welcome return of the Gang of Five (though there are really only four), introduced in The Misfits. The novel's innovative format reveals the "alphabiography" of 13-year-old Joe Bunch, the gay member of the seventh-grade misfits. In this alphabetical survey, assigned by his English teacher, he shares his heartfelt, snappy reflections. For "A is for Addie," he recalls his earlier years, when he liked to dress up and play with Barbie dolls (a pastime that bonded him to Addie, also from the Gang of Five). He confesses that in fifth grade he wanted to be a "guy-guy" so badly that he asked his friend to teach him how ("Oh. My. God. It was pathetic"). Joe has a crush on "totally cool, smart" Colin (the "C" entry), a jock who returns his affection but is not ready to go public with their relationship and eventually calls it off. Encouraged by his insightful aunt, Joe takes a major leap when he comes out to his supportive family. Howe deals with weighty issues, but uses Joe's affable personality to interject ample humor, and the hero ends each segment with a "Life Lesson," many presenting principles appropriate to any kid (e.g., "Just be who you are, okay?"). This narrator is anything but an average Joe: he's candid, memorable and-though he might find this hard to believe-totally charismatic. Ages 10-14. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Howe continues the story of 13-year-old Joe, one of the protagonists of his fine novel The Misfits, in this "alphabiography." As an English assignment, Joe is told to write about his life over the school year from A to Z, with each alphabetical chapter ending in a "Life Lesson" to be shared with others. At first he thinks this is "lame," but soon he embraces the format and starts to reveal his life in short, funny, touching vignettes. As he'd be the first to proclaim, Joe is not exactly an average Joe: he's gay and comfortable with it, and in the course of the novel he acquires his first boyfriend and comes out to his supportive (and unsurprised) family. Joe's lively voice is charming and funny, and it's refreshing to get the point of view of a (mostly) happy gay character in YA fiction. As in The Misfits, Howe's real topic is the devastating effects of intolerance, and the harassment Joe and his boyfriend endure in the course of Totally Joe provokes Joe's good friend Addie to lobby for a school gay-straight alliance, while Joe acquires the self-confidence to report a bully who's been taunting him to a school administrator. This funny, inspiring novel may help give gay YAs hope and everyone the courage to speak out against discrimination; readers both gay and straight will enjoy the experience of seeing life through Joe's eyes. There's absolutely nothing sexually explicit here, by the way. KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2005, Simon & Schuster, Atheneum, 208p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Joe's teacher asks his seventh-grade class to write an "alphabiography" throughout the year, presenting themselves and their lives in entries from A to Z. Joe's essays begin and end with friends, from Addie, a long-time pal and confidant, to Zachary, a new student who, like Joe, has a unique approach to life. Throughout, Joe demonstrates that he truly is a one-of-a-kind kid, mostly comfortable with himself but still struggling with common adolescent issues. It's difficult for him to relate to his athletic brother, and he misses his much-loved Aunt Pam, who moves to New York City. He also comes to grips with his sexuality, questioning gender expectations and traditional roles as he realizes he is gay. Because he is different, he is tormented by Kevin, who calls him a "girl" and "faggot" and falsely accuses him of kissing his friend Colin (a jock not yet ready to come out). Joe's narration always feels honest if not entirely credible. He and his family accept his emerging sexuality rather easily. While a range of responses is depicted, the characters seem to come around too quickly. For example, when the principal is informed of Kevin's actions, he, too, handles the situation expeditiously, and the troublemaker conveniently transfers to another school. Though idealized and contrived, the approach is novel and the conclusion optimistic.-Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
One quarter of the "Gang of Five" from The Misfits (2001) tells his own story of coming out and overcoming bullies and prejudice through alphabetical entries in his "alphabiography." Joe Bunch aka JoDan aka Scorpio (among other names) works his way from October to March to fulfill his teacher Mr. Daly's assignment to write about his life from A to Z, including "life lessons" at the end of each entry. Though things do go Joe's way, the story is nothing but realistic. Howe has created a character that lives and breathes with all of the inconsistencies, fears and longings of your normal average seventh-grade homosexual. Joe still thinks "exchanging saliva" is excruciatingly gross, but he knows he wants to date boys. He thinks Colin is cute and fun to be with, but Joe just can't "tone down" on command. His family is not surprised when he finally lets them in on his secret with the gentle assistance of his artistic Aunt Pam and his (sometimes overly) helpful best friend Addie. The timeline overlaps the events of the companion novel, but fans of the first won't feel deja vu. There's more of a sense of spending extra time with a favorite friend. (Fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher
"A character that lives and breathes with all the inconsistencies, fears, and longings of your normal, average seventh-grade homosexual."

Kirkus, *STAR

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442449435
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Series: Misfits
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 119,579
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 910L (what's this?)
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

James Howe is the author of more than ninety books for young readers, including the modern classic Bunnicula and its highly popular sequels. In 2001, Howe published The Misfits, the story of four outcast seventh-graders who try to end name-calling in their school. The Misfits is now widely read and studied in middle schools throughout the country, and was the inspiration for the national movement known as No Name-Calling Week (, an event observed by thousands of middle and elementary schools annually. There are three companion novels to The Misfits: Totally Joe (2005), Addie on the Inside (2011), and Also Known as Elvis (2014). Howe’s many other books for children from preschool through teens frequently deal with the acceptance of difference and being true to oneself. Visit him online at
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Read an Excerpt

Totally Joe

By James Howe


Copyright © 2005 James Howe
All right reserved.

ISBN: 068983957X


To Mr. Daly

(All Other Eyes Keep Out!)

March 10

Dear Mr. Daly,

Okay, I admit it. When you first gave us this assignment, I thought it was lame. Write about yourself from A-Z? Bo-ring. (No offense.) Besides worrying that I wouldn't know what to write for every single letter (Hello, does anybody know an x-word other than xylophone? And does anybody play the xylophone? And if they did, would anybody care?), well, I was also thinking, Can I really tell the truth about myself? I'm not ashamed of my life or anything. I'm only thirteen (twelve, when I started writing this), so I doubt I've gotten to the really embarrassing stuff yet, but, let's face it, I'm not exactly your average Joe and I get called plenty of names because of it. And then there was all the stuff that happened this year. I mean, was I really going to write about all that? And when you said we had to end every chapter with a Life Lesson to share with others, I thought: Oh. My. God. That is so Oprah.

But I got the point. You wanted us to think. You wanted this to be about something. But if it's about the real stuff -- you know, the truth and all -- well, I have

to ask: Mr. Daly, did you think this one through? I mean, hello, we're in the seventh grade. Every single thing anybody knows about us is ammunition. And have you thought about the fact that we would end up talking about other people in our "alphabiographies," as you call them? I mean, we could be sued for libel. I know about this stuff. I watch Court TV.

Well, anyway, here it is. I started it in October and finished it last week. You're the first person to read it--other than me, I mean. I haven't even shown it to my best friends, who all shared what they wrote and were, like, "We're never speaking to you again" when I wouldn't let them read what I wrote -- especially Addie, who doesn't know the meaning of "It's none of your business." Well, actually, Bobby was okay with my not sharing. He respects privacy. But the others were, like, "Joe, it's not like we don't know everything about you, anyway." But the thing is, I wrote stuff in here that I've never written down before. Some of it I didn't even know until I wrote it down. It's kind of personal (and some of it is seriously private). I had to decide if I should take some stuff out before handing it in, but I liked writing it and it's all the truth -- and that's what you said we should go for, right?

But the thing is, Mr. Daly, if you wouldn't mind keeping what I've written to yourself, that would be okay with me. Really. Whatever you do, please don't ask me to read any of it in front of the class, even if you think it's the best alphabiography you've ever read. I mean, I wouldn't want to betray other people -- and the thing with my mother's high heels is not something I need everybody to know about. Ammunition, remember?

Yours truly,

Joe (formerly JoDan) Bunch


A is for Addie

It might seem funny to start an autobiography by writing about somebody else, but there's a simple reason: Addie is one of my first memories.

I was four years old when I moved to Paintbrush Falls, right next door to this tall, skinny girl named Addie Carle. I found out later her real name was Addison. I made that number six on the "Weird Things About Our Neighbors" list I had going in my head. I remember the list:

1. These people don't eat meat. Not even hot dogs. They eat something called Tofu Pups instead. (Gross.)

2. The mother doesn't shave her armpits. (Gross.)

3. The father likes to be called by his first name. (Graham.)

4. The girl (Addie) is my age and knows how to read. Or says she does.

5. Addie thinks my favorite movie star has a stupid name and that there must be something wrong with her.

6. Addie's real name is Addison, which is a lot stupider than Cher, and I think there must be something wrong with her.

In case you're wondering, I had never seen Cher in a movie. I was only four. But I had seen her on an infomercial once, and, I don't know, it's like we instantly bonded. This is something that Addie, to this day, does not get. I love Addie -- as a friend -- but she can be so dense. Honestly.

So here's what I remember: this tall, skinny girl picking her nose while eating a peanut butter sandwich. It's not pretty, but I can't help what my first memories are, can I? And think about it: Wouldn't that make an impression on you?

She was sitting on her front-porch steps. I walked over and stared at her picking her nose and eating her sandwich. Finally she said, "I thought you were supposed to be a boy. Why are you wearing a dress?" I told her that that was for me to know and her to find out. She said, "Oh, I will." Then she offered me a bite of her sandwich, but because of the booger factor, I politely said no. I think we went up to her room after that and played with her Legos.

Oh, I just remembered something else weird. It might have been #41/2 on my list. Addie did not have any Barbies. I mean, what kind of girl doesn't have any Barbies? I was only four and not even a girl, and I had seven Barbies, at least.

The no-Barbies thing made me feel sorry for Addie for a while, but then I started to think that even without Barbies she was the luckiest person in the world. Why? Because she's an only child! I couldn't believe it when I found out. I was, like, "You're soooo lucky!" And she was, like, "Nuh-uh, you're luckier. You have a big brother." Please. She had no idea what it was like having a brother who was totally different from you. I mean, Jeff is nice and all, but he's this total guy-guy who's all "yo" and "dude" and grabbing at his crotch and belching. (I don't mean to be crude, but, honestly, that's how it is.) Of course, when we were younger, Jeff wasn't like that so much. But, still, he was always into sports big-time, while me, all I have to do is see a ball and I get a nosebleed.

It's funny. Even though we're so different -- and whatever the opposite of guy-guy is, that's what I am -- Jeff has never made fun of me. Even when I was going through my Easy-Bake oven stage (which lasted from my sixth birthday until the unfortunate incident with the lasagna when I was seven), he'd come home all sweaty from playing football or something and find me in an apron making cookies, and he wouldn't say anything nasty like, "Nice apron, Martha Stewart." The worst he'd do was grab a cookie and belch. Even when he was with his friends, he pretty much left me alone. (Except for grabbing cookies.)

The point is, once we moved to Paintbrush Falls, Jeff and I never played together, which was okay with me because I had Addie next door to play with, and right off the bat Addie introduced me to her best friend, Bobby Goodspeed.

Addie is really smart, as everybody at Paintbrush Falls Middle School knows. (I mean, it's hard not to know, when she's in your face about it 24/7.) But her being smart can be a good thing. Like when we first met, after she asked me about the dress and after I asked her to come over to my house to play Barbies and she said, "You have Barbies?" she pretty much had me figured out and stopped asking questions. I think it helped that she loved playing Barbies. Her parents were so anti-Barbie they probably would have sent her off to boarding school if they'd ever found out what was going on next door. Needless to say, she never told them. (I seem to recall that Addie liked Teacher Barbie best, which if you know Addie, will totally not be a surprise.)

Still, over the years Addie's smarts have gotten her into all kinds of trouble. Like what's going on right now, with her refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance because she says we don't have liberty and justice for all in this country and she doesn't like making empty pledges. I'm not sure how I feel about what she's doing. I mean, I respect her for standing up for what she believes in (and I kind of agree with her about it) -- and it's totally cool that she and Bobby have gotten everybody in school talking about name-calling -- but, I don't know, I've got to be honest: Sometimes I wish she'd just shut up and sit down.

She would so kill me if she knew I felt that way.

So why do I feel that way? I guess it's because when you're a boy like me, you kind of get noticed all the time. You don't need to have a friend who is always opening her big mouth and bringing even more attention your way. At the same time, Addie has always stood up for me. She's never been afraid to tell Kevin Hennessey off when he's called me names or tripped me or yanked my hair. I never thought about it before, but it was probably because of Addie that I learned how to tell Kevin Hennessey off myself. (Not that I always do. But at least I know the words I would say if I had the nerve to say them.)

Life Lesson: Standing up for other people can help them learn to stand up for themselves. :)

:) Mr. Daly: I was going to say, "Don't pick your nose and eat a peanut-butter sandwich at the same time," but I have a feeling this is more what you had in mind. Am I right?

Copyright 2005 by James Howe


Excerpted from Totally Joe by James Howe Copyright © 2005 by James Howe.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 51 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 51 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Meet Joe. You'll be glad you did!

    As an English class assignment for his seventh grade class, Joe writes an 'alphabiography' - the story of his life from A to Z. In the process Joe finds the courage to come out as gay to his parents and friends, to deal with school bullies, to find not one, but two boyfriends, starting a Gay/Straight Alliance in his school and so much more. It is truly rare to find a positive voice for young gay kids (and their family and friends). Joe comes across as just a normal young teen. Joe is no hero, he's just himself. totally Joe. Joe's life lesson for parents :" Love your kids. Let them play with Barbies. Let them pick out the stuff in their bedroom (Hello). And don't tell them that 'people like that' make you uptight, because for all you know your kids could be 'people like that' as well." Out of the mouth of babes... An excellent book for all young teens (and pre-teens) who are gay or lesbian or are unsure; (or even those whose friend or family member might be). I'm glad I met Joe. I'm sure you will be too.

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2007

    A reviewer

    I read this book in one day- I couldn't put it down. Joe just seemed so much like a real person, I wanted to find out more and more about him and his life. I recommend this book to anyone- gay or straight- because it shows you how you should just be yourself, whoever you are and it helps you to understand how, if we just try, we can overcome all of the discrimination.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2012


    Yes, joe does get romantically involved with a boy.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2013

    Totally Joe

    This book was a wonderful take on just how hard it is to be a kid these days. I may not be gay, but he makes me understand him so I don't get lost in all the delightful writing. This book is worth reading.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2013

    Totally Real

    This book was so great and incredibly real! Joe is such a postive representation of the struggle of finding who you are and where you fit. I think it is refreshing to see a book with a young character coming out as gay. It is more common of a topic than some may realize and Joe is a good rolemodel that children, young adults, and beyond can relate to and appreciate.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2012


    This book is so weird and my teacher starts talking about why it is okay to say gay in school, and for those who didnt read this, U will know why it is good to say it and what an alphabiography

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 8, 2012

    Three stars for Nook format, pulled up to four stars by an emine

    Three stars for Nook format, pulled up to four stars by an eminently readable story. In dead-tree format I would give it five stars. I haven't read The Misfits; based Totally Joe I plan to. I definitely want to read more about the Gang of Five.

    Unfortunately, the Nook does not handle footnotes. At all. So the last sixth of the book (on the Nook) is the footnotes from the first 5/6 of the book, one footnote per page, with no connection between a footnote and the point in the body of the story where it is referenced. This may be a limitation of the e-book format, but it makes some (relatively minor) aspects of the story nearly inaccessible.

    Buy this book! Joe Bunch is a totally engaging main character, and the book left me wanting to know more about each of the members of the Gang of Five. But buy it in print - the e-book format just doesn't work in this case.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2012



    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Addressing Heavy Issues in a Lighthearted Way

    Totally Joe is the fictional "alphabiography" that middle school student Joe Bunch is asked to write for a class. Joe's writing reveals him to be personable, funny, and optimistic. Much of his "alphabiography" addresses the opposition he faces as a gay student. Throughout history, people have tried to dehumanize or demonize suppressed groups in order to justify their discrimination. This book does an excellent job promoting respectful treatment of GLBT individuals by humanizing them. Young adults of any sexual orientation will find Joe Bunch extremely likable and exuberant. The book helps young heterosexual people to realize that young people that are gay are people too. This book is also excellent for young people who are battling with their sexuality. They may be able to relate to the trials that Joe faces and find hope and help in how Joe handles those situations. Though some of Joe's problems may be solved a little too easily, this book still raises awareness of problems pertinent to young people's experience in twenty-first century schools, such as bullying, name-calling, and intolerance.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2010

    Totally Joe

    Totally Joe by James Howe is a unique documentation of a young boy entering his teenage years. Joe describes his feelings and circumstances through an alphabiography, and shares with the reader the life lessons he has learned. As Joe enters puberty, he becomes aware of his sexual identity and realizes that he is "different" than most of the other boys his age. Joe establishes a few friendships with other boys however he is faced with hateful name calling, isolation, and fear. Through the help of his true friends, Joe is able to openly admit he is gay, and decides that he just wants to be accepted for being himself.
    Howe addresses additional social issues throughout his novel. Not only is homosexuality an issue, Joe's friend Addie is a vegetarian, his Aunt Pam deals with drug issues and abuse, and the Gang of Five is a group of four kids who everyone makes fun of. These social issues are applicable in the lives of middle and high school students today.
    Totally Joe is written with both a humorous and serious tone. Joe's attempts to make light of his homosexual relationships result in the creation of "No Name Calling" Day. Through the use of humor, Howe explicably relays the true consequences and feelings of the characters as they live outside the social norm.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 27, 2010

    Totally Joe Review

    James Howe's Totally Joe is written in the form of an Alphabiography (a biography in which each chapter is represented by a different letter of the alphabet) written by the main character, Joe Bunch, for a school project. Through it, we gain an intimate into the characters innerworkings. The reader is allowed the privilege of watching an especially charismatic young man form his sense of self which is hindered by his closeted homosexuality but even more so by his tormentor, Kevin Hennessey. I especially enjoyed reading this book. I was enveloped by the story and ended up reading it in one sitting. It is a great story and on top of that it is chock full of morals. Totally Joe is the sequel to the book, The Misfits, that inspired No-Name Calling Week. Appropriately, the theme of tolerance plays a prominent role in this story as well.
    I would recommend this book to most everyone. The only possible objection I could see someone having to this book is the fact that the main character is gay. In my opinion, that is a rather trivial point to object to because the message the story conveys is enormously important.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2010

    Reader Review for a YA Audience

    This novel is a very entertaining look into the life of a homosexual 12-year-old boy. Joe has written an "alphabiography" for an assignment in his writing class. Going from A to Z, he describes the many things in his life that take place between October and March. The trials he faces for being a gay teenager are presented in a very realistic way. The acceptance he longs for in his family and the community are relatable to all teens. Also, it is a good YA novel to show the power of individuality and a character that has enough strength to stand up for what he believes in. The novel has some interesting characters that add depth to the story and present the different struggles with being a pre-teen in school today. I would recommend this book for all ages to study the struggle of acceptance in society.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2007

    i liked it

    This book gave me a better look on gay poeple becuase it shows that no matter how big, how small, or whether they want a boyfriend or a girl firend we're all the same. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2014


    How do you come out to your parents or other relatives if they might not like it? I am only 12 but I am serious about it. I have thought about if I am gay for almost a year and am ready to tell people. More than one answer is appreciated! Reply to @rainbowflagg.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2014

    You shouldn't read this if you are against gays

    It just talks about being gay.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2014

    Where did you find this?

    Nooks finds and best of are becoming a no person land of discards and remands and where do they get the reviews?

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2014


    Being gay is wrong. God does not want you to be gay.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2013

    Looks good

    This bok looks really good I did not have a chance to read it yet but I am looking fowered too.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2013

    Adventure Time

    When im older, i am going to get my name legally changed to First: Finn Middle: The Last: Human

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2012


    So this book is the sequal to another great book "The Misfits" also by James Howe. This book describes how the main character Joe finds himself. He has 3 friends who have been through thick and thin with him. Two of his friends are dating and he has a crush. But Joe is gay and he is scared to tell his parents. This book is great; I couldnt put it down and neither will you. You will totally enjoy this boys journey and will admire how he is so fine with being himself even when he is being bullied for it. He figures he is who he is and thats that. Totally Joe. : )

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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