Author: Gary D. Schmidt.
Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.
Surprisingly good! The first-person narrator, a teenage boy, is very authentic, from his occasional cluelessness to his flashes of insight and wry understanding of the high-school ecology he lives in. The characters around him become more and more nuanced as the reader and, increasingly, Holling himself realizes how much he’s been looking right past them. There’s not exactly a strong overarching plot, but the story is engaging enough I didn’t want to put it down, and over all I think it’s a coming-of-age story.
I liked it. I really, really liked it. And this is the point where I’m supposed to explain to you why, and lay out all the underlying themes and metaphors, and – well, in the first place I’m not sure I can, and in the second place it wouldn’t do this book justice. You know how there’s sweet and cheerful, and then there’s sappy? Well, for me The Wednesday Wars fell on just the right side of that line, about as sweet and cliche as possible without inching too far. That’s not an easy line to walk.
I’m going to agree with Bernadette here (I do that a lot) and say this is a really cute, heart-warming (and sometimes heart-wrenching) story. It has a good number of laugh-out-loud parts (Caliban and Sycorax!) and as many touching ones. I think my favorite parts by far were all the Shakespeare discussions, and watching Holling’s attitude towards Shakespeare gradually change – because it turns out that one of the ways to my heart is Shakespeare, and in this book the quality of Shakespeare is not strained.
The setting – during the Vietnam War – was also really fascinating to me, because I haven’t often read anything in that time period, and I (having no experience whatsoever) thought the author handled it rather well.
Sexual Content: None.
Violence: One character (accidentally-not-accidentally ?) trips another who falls, hits his head, and ends up vomiting. One character is bitten by a rat. One character stomps on another’s foot. Snowball to the face. Two rats are killed (squished) by a bus. One character receives a glancing hit from a sliding bus, but is uninjured except for some bruising. There are some references to the on-going war, and one side-character receives a telegram informing her of her husband’s death.