If you wonder what all the fuss is about, you can check out my review of Howe's earlier companion books here.
It feels like it has been a forever kind of wait, but once I started reading this one, it makes sense. Skeezie is relating this story to his about to be born child, a boy they will name Elvis. The grade seven students I first introduced The Misfits to, will be 22 years old this year, so they are nearly as old as Skeezie in this version of the companion books.
The format is similar to The Misfits, with dialogue between the gang of five written in a different font from the narrated part of the story.
I'm so glad to have gotten to know Skeezie better. He's there in the other books, but we don't really come to understand him like we do in his own book. He lives with his single mom and two younger sisters. It is anything but easy because, "When your dad leaves, part of your mom leaves, too." His absent father doesn't send support money so his mother is stressed from working two jobs. None of the gang of five have an inkling about the tension and fighting Skeezie has to deal with. His mother insists that Skeezie find a summer job to help out. So the summer following the events described in The Misfits, when the gang took on name calling at their school, thirteen year old Skeezie ends up working at The Candy Kitchen.
It turns out to be a challenging summer for Skeezie. He has a father's role at home and is responsible for taking care of his sisters when his mother is at work. He has to deal with Becca, who may or may not like him, but even if she does, is it safe to like her back? Then his father returns to town. Skeezie's feelings are conflicted. How can he cope with someone who has abandoned the family and now wants back into their lives? The bright spot in all this is his friendship with Jessica, the older girl who works at the cafe. When the rest of the gang is away on vacation, Jessica and Skeezie share the details of their lives, and become lasting friends.
This series remains popular at our school in part because we have literature circle sets of both The Misfits and Totally Joe. Numerous students are introduced to, and become attached to the characters. Demand for these companion books never wavers.