*Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous by J. B. Cheaney. Sourcebooks, 2014. 304 pages.
- Reading Level: Middle Grades (8-10, 10-12)
- Recommended For: Ages 10-12
Bottom Line: A realistic fiction novel that brings together nine very different students on one bus with one school driver for one school year: who is going to be famous?
Our story opens with a tragedy: a school bus has gone off the side of a steep road in the midst of a torrential downpour. And abruptly, the novel rewinds nine months to the beginning of that school year.
Every morning Mrs. B stops her school bus beside an empty shelter at the end of a gravel road; this is a new stop on her route this year, and her regular, longtime riders (nine of them) begin to wonder what’s up. Even though readers may know (part of) the ending to this story, they must fit the various pieces of the puzzle into place right along with the main characters as each in turn uncovers a lead in the mystery of the abandoned bus stop. And who will be the famous one from this bus?
Will it be Brainy Spencer? Shelly, resident diva? How about the unobtrusive Alice? Faithful Miranda? Super smart bully Bender? In-his-own-world Matthew? Maybe talkative Kaitlynn? Lightning fast Jay? Igor, whose real name even grown-ups can’t remember? These students learn from and about one another as they form their own small community on the school bus; when tragedy strikes, they rally around their own.
Cheaney tells the story using each of the nine students’ unique perspectives in consecutive chapters. Weaving humor, family tragedies, former rivalries, misunderstandings, and childlike hopes and dreams together, Cheaney uses her characters’ backstories to illuminate stereotypes and remind readers that each person around us is an individual who can make valuable contributions in life. Each person is unique, and it is that very uniqueness that makes teamwork both challenging and rewarding. To drive this point home, at the end of the book a former outcast turns hero when disaster happens, and his name is redeemed after a generation of mistrust.
Overal Rating: 5 stars
- Artistic Rating: 5 stars
- Worldview/Moral Rating: 4.75 stars
Cautions: Language (very occasional mild vulgar language: “sucks,” “freaking”)
- Literary Element: How does the author use nine different perspectives to show well-rounded characters?
- Thematic Element: How are stereotypes made and/or changed in life and in friendships?
- Worldview Element: How does the novel celebrate that each person is made in the image of God?