The Misfits, Totally Joe, and Addie on the Inside by James Howe

The Misfits, Totally Joe, and Addie on the Inside by James Howe

The Misfits and Totally Joe are both great novels, but in Addie on the Inside, James Howe has surpassed himself! These books are not sequels but rather companion books that enable us to know more about the characters and the events that shaped them.
I brought The Misfits into the library a number of years ago because I was fed up with hearing "that's so gay", or "you're so gay" used as insults.  I thought that if students had some connection with someone who is gay, even if it was through literature, it might change their attitude.  Of course just bringing this book into the school hasn't been all that has happened since then, but I am happy to say that I rarely hear that kind of name calling these days.

The Misfits is the story of four middle school kids who call themselves the gang of five. Bobby is chubby. Addie is tall and very smart. Joe is gay. Skeezie is a born again Elvis. None of them fit in with the regular school population and have to deal with teasing and harassment because of who they are. They create their own political organization, the No Name Party, for the grade 7 elections. Its purpose it to put an end to name-calling.
Misfits is narrated through the eyes of Bobby. It is hilarious, honest and painful. While the political machinations play a significant part of the story, it is also the story of a boy trying to make sense of what is going on around him.  Bobby is close to his father since his mom died when he was eight. Her death has left its own kinds of scars on both of them. in this book Bobby grows and matures.  He enters into his first romantic relationship. Eventually Bobby surprises us and himself with his own passion and confidence.

Totally Joe, written as an ‘alphabiography,’ is Joe’s interpretation of the events of the year. At times Joe struggles with being a boy, yet not a boy boy like his brother, Jeff. However, most of the time he is a confident character full of energy and optimism. We get to know Joe as he embraces the joy and heartache of his first romance. We are there with him as he tries to deal with ongoing homophobic harassment.  There are some who think Joe’s story of coming out and acceptance by his friends and family is idealistic.

I think it is about possibility and what should be.

And now the long awaited story of Addie has arrived! About all I can really think to say is WOW! Misfits was written in a relatively classic novel style, then Joe’s story was in a journal format, and Addie’s perspective is revealed through poetry.
In Addie on the Inside, James Howe has done a wonderful job illuminating the girl behind the girl we read about in the first two books. Addie is strong, outspoken, and confident on the outside, but behind the scenes is a girl struggling with some of the usual teenage angst - body image, peer pressure, and her first romance. Yet there is much more to Addie than that. She worries about the state of the world: global warming, homelessness, poverty, war, and “how in the world the world will ever be okay.” Not only does Addie worry, she has the courage to do something to change the way things are.

While the other books focus more on the male protagonists, in this one, the actuality of how girls bully and harass one another is exposed. In spite of everything she has to deal with, Addie remains smart, sensitive, and secure in who she is.

I Am Who I Say I Am

“I am a girl who is growing up
in my own sweet time,
I am a girl who knows enough
to know this life is mine.

I’m a worrier, I’m a warrior,
I’m a loner and a friend,
I’m an outspoken defender
of justice to the end

I’m the girl in the mirror
who likes the girl she sees,…” page 201

Now I guess we just have to wait for Skeezie’s take on things.