Messed Up Review

Messed Up
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"Messed Up" is one of those books that catches you by surprise. I am an English teacher at a low income area school that provides education for both middle AND high school students, all in one building. I have a few male students that "hate" to read, one being a Mexican American 16 year old. As I started to read some young adult novels for pleasure and for research, I found one book that I thought he might like. After asking him to please five it a try, he came back to be 4 days later and said he had finished the 400 page book! I then realized that he didn't hate to read, he just needed a book that he could relate to.
That being said, I was in the local library and came across "Messed Up." I remembered seeing the book at Barnes & Noble awhile ago but for some reason it was not at the top of my list to buy. Since it was sitting there at the library, I borrowed it.
Okay onto my review. First of all, since the book mentioned that the main character is Mexican American, I assumed the author was going to fill the pages with a minority that is struggling in a white society, how he doesn't fit in because of his nationality, etc. But I was wrong. The experiences J.D. goes through in the story makes a person realize that this could happen to anybody. There are many kids out there-- white, black, Spanish-- that come from very rough home life. Their parents are alcoholics, or their parents are separated. Or both parents are so messed up that the kids are stuck in foster homes or left to live with elderly grandparents.
I liked this book because at first it reminded me of a movie I saw called, "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead." J.D. comes home one day late from school to find his grandfather dead on the bathroom floor. While he does the right thing by calling 911, he decides to wait to contact his grandfather's sister since he remembers how mean she is. Somehow he convinces the police that have arrived that he isn't alone. From there he decides not to tell anyone about the death of his grandfather. Somehow J.D. gets away with living on his own without anyone realizing that a 15 year old is living in a big house by himself. The majority of the story is following J.D. around as he learns how to survive on his own. Simple tasks, such as remembering to take a shower, to doing laundry, to how to bake a potato, to remembering to put milk in the frig so it doesn't go sour-- these are all the things J.D. learns how to do on his own. I found myself laughing at some of his mistakes while sympathizing with him at the same time.
I also like the language of the novel. The author really does a good job at making it feel like we are reading about a teenage boy. She uses incorrect spelling on purpose to give the story an authentic feel. J.D. would use words like, "sez" instead of "says" or "cuz" instead of "because." I think students that read this book will relate better to the character because of the language that he uses.
While this book may not be challenging enough for students that like to read, this is a perfect novel for students that are reluctant readers or teenagers that you personally know that have rough upbringings that need a little inspiration!

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