Book Review: Armstrong & Charlie

pic from NetGalley

Armstrong & Charlie
By Steven B. Frank

My Edition,
ARC e-book, 304 pages
2017, HMH Books
ISBN: 9780544826083 (Hardcover)

Charlie is dreading sixth grade because when he completes it, he’ll be older than his brother Andy who passed away recently. To make matters worse, right before school starts, Charlie finds that most of his friends have switched to different schools. Armstrong has found out he’ll be attending a new school as well, courtesy of the new Opportunity Busing Program – he’ll be joining Charlie’s formerly all-white school and both boys will have a tough time adjusting.

Armstrong & Charlie is one of those books that I greatly enjoyed and just can’t find the words in me for a good review. I hate when this happens because we all know I can rant for days about terrible books, yet there are times when I read something I would gladly recommend and I choke up! Ugh! -_-

This book is set in the 1970s in California, which is a big change of scenery for me, especially for middle-grade. Armstrong and a handful of other students were selected to be bussed to Charlie’s school, Wonderland. This is a new experience for both boys and on the first day of school, perhaps because tensions are high and perhaps because the students are afraid of being misunderstood, Charlie and Armstrong get off on the wrong foot. This starts a feud between the two of them that carries itself throughout the school year, slowly morphing into a solid friendship.

I wanted to slap both boys just as much as I wanted to see them get the upper hand over the other. Charlie and Armstrong are both clever and stubborn and Armstrong’s wit had me laughing several times.

Towards the end I wanted to cry, but Sweetbeeps was in the room and while he wouldn’t have minded my waterworks, he would have been confused as to why I was sitting in front of my laptop sniveling and then I would have had to explain like, the whole book, and he wouldn’t have had time for that, so I just bottled it up.

I know this review is basically rubbish very vague as far as giving you any information on what I liked, but I warned you! I just want to shout in your face that I love this book. I found it poignant and funny and I think that this is a book that perfectly captures that awkward time in sixth grade where you’re not quite a little kid anymore, but also not a teenager yet. The running theme throughout the book is “different, yet the same” which is something we all could think about more often when it comes to our social interactions with others. This is an excellent contemporary (wait, is it still contemporary if it’s set over 40 years ago?!) read if you’re looking for strong social themes in your middle-grade or a story line that is a little deeper and more meaningful. Again, sorry this review is so awkward! But I really enjoyed the hell outta this book!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Steven has a great looking website and he talks a little there (and in the note in the back of his book) about how he experienced the start of the Opportunity Busing program at his middle school and the friends he made because of that change.