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Totally Joe

Totally Joe

4.0 54
by James Howe

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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


"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....

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
* “The welcome return of the Gang of Five (though there are really only four) introduced in The Misfits…. This narrator is anything but an average Joe: he’s candid, memorable and—though he might find this hard to believe—totally charismatic.”—Publishers Weekly, *STAR

"Joe's voice is both real and funny, ensuring accessibility to a wide range of students, male or female, gay or straight."

--School Library Journal, February 2011

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
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Sales rank:
910L (what's this?)
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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.

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 (NoNameCallingWeek.org), 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 JamesHowe.com.

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Totally Joe 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
iluvvideo More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes, joe does get romantically involved with a boy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Darrell_T More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tim-Mouthy More than 1 year ago
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.
Sarah_SVSU More than 1 year ago
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.
ColeR_English254 More than 1 year ago
When I looked at this book, I thought I was going to be diving into another typical teenage romance ordeal. The back cover certainly didn't help because I was on the train of thought that "Joe" was just a shortened girl's name. This was derailed once I finally got a few chapters in; Not only did I find the writing very cute, the alphabetography fun, and Joe's train of thought amusing, but I also found that "she" was a "he", and that Joe was a homosexual. I may be biased for gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals, so I don't know how legit I can be for writing about this book. I really felt that everything JoDan went through was very spot-on for how kids react even in this day and age, particularly the bullies and name-calling, and thus a lot of readers would be able to relate. To know that there are parents out there that are understanding to these situations can be what brings a young boy or girl out of the closet and into a world of self-confidence and respect, and I think that is very important to a young adult. I personally feel Totally Joe would be a great addition to a classroom's reading choices, not just because it deals with such a common ordeal, but because it also sorts out the effects of name-calling and things of that sort. There's no reason why it shouldn't be allowed -- Schools should not associate with a particular religion or belief. Then again, I also feel that I would make the worst teacher in the world, which is why I am certainly not going into the field. I really loved the themes in this book, and it brought to light a lot of different things that go around in schools. I thought all of the characters were very memorable and fun, and even the little romances made me go, "Aww." Totally Joe is a book I will be keeping around.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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. : )
APaul More than 1 year ago
Totally Joe is the remarkable story of the teenage boy, Joe Bunch. James Howe does a superb job of discussing the many bumps in which the road of puberty is paved with. This book is written from the first person perspective of Joe in the form of an alphabiography, this is an assignment that Joe was given by his teacher. Joe's quest to be accepted is a universal concept to teenagers and adults alike. In addition to this struggle, Joe is also trying to understand his place in life as a same-sex oriented individual. This book also shines light on teenage bullying and the importance of a support system. This book is a page turner and will keep readers entertained from start to finish.
KellyL_ENG254 More than 1 year ago
Totally Joe was very insightful. The creativity behind this story was intriguing and made it an easy read. Joe's humor and his story made me look forward to turning every page. The subject is a sensitive topic, however, I feel the way that James Howe presents it makes it easy to understand and appreciate. Some readers may feel uncomfortable simply because of the topic, but that should make them read it even more to understand and create tolerance with homosexuality. Totally Joe shines light to very prevalent issues in schools such as, homosexuality or just diversity in general, and bullying. This story was a great read and I would recommend it to everyone.
dJones More than 1 year ago
This is a very good story for all ages. I know it says only up to 13 years of age but this book helped me remember who I was. It teaches so many thing going through this young kids life that many forget about as they grow up.

I recommend this book for ALL AGES!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a sequel to the misfits book, that is my favorite book. It starts that Joe like Collin and Addie like him too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is the best book ever!!!! this book let me show people that i can be a lesbian
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was drawn to this book from the cover, but what inside is so much better. This book is so unique, from the alphabiography to Joe's green high-tops. I recommend this book! Read it! Its amazing, and so interesting. One of those hard to put down books.:)))
Guest More than 1 year ago
i loved this book. its one of my absolute favorites. i read it over and over and over agan, and realized that this book really has all the pros and cons about teen issues and life. this book diserves a 10 point rating, but 5 will do for now.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Joe Bunch is gay. Joe Bunch is lots of fun. Joe Bunch is a teenager. Joe Bunch is... well... totally Joe. With a voice completely of his own, Joe is quite content with who he is. He deals with his emerging sexuality, the bullies in school, the general disapproval of gays - and brings out lots of life lessons for all of us. (I liked this one the best: 'Religion is as good as the people using it'). Overall, great book! read it, it may help you solve your problems.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book it was over just fun. The point of view is very dramatic and interesting. I loved the format of the story and I could relate to a lot of the situations that Joe Bunch talked about. Great book! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Joe and Colin seem like a good couple!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago