A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius is possibly one of Scholastic Canada's best in recent years. Written for readers ages 10-14, this wonderful novel is told from the point-of-view of a young boy who struggles with a wide range of typical middle school problems, including girls, grades, and bullies. The entire story is told through Arthur's emails, letters, journal entries, assignments, and drawings. This is an easy, enjoyable, and fast-paced read with a charming main character and an endearing story.
Summary: Arthur Bean, soon-to-be a rich and famous author, has set two goals for himself: to win the school writing contest and to win the heart of his secret crush, Kennedy. But his life has had some major twists and turns lately, and the recent loss of his mother definitely complicates things. Arthur is in turns outrageous, defiant, and unintentionally hilarious as we peek over his shoulder at his reading journals, notes from his long-suffering teachers, his offbeat articles for the school newspaper — even the emails he sends to writing partner Kennedy. A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius is a fresh and funny story about a boy whose bad luck can't dampen his spirit — or his love of writing.
Arthur is witty, honest, and sometimes a little too bold. He makes plenty of mistakes, including taking claim of another boy's story for the writing competition. The reason for such an error?: pride, procrastination, and Arthur's having yet to come to terms with recent loss of his mother. Despite his faults, the reader will root for Arthur, but also reflect on his choices, behaviour, and his struggles at school. A big plus for teachers: Arthur's actions make for great classroom discussion on plagiarism, bullying, and more!
There is very little content to concern parents and educators. Arthur is bullied by a classmate, but it's made obvious that Arthur is also not an innocent party. Getting along is a two-person job! One great life lesson to take away is that you don't know what other people are going through. Arthur learns that his bully is mean partly because of what's going on in his life. When the boys admit to their own personal problems, they realize they have quite a lot in common after all.
Overall, this book is well-worth the read and is a great addition to classroom and personal libraries. Arthur's middle school woes are felt by every child at one point or another, and although his faults get him into some trouble, his intentions, heart, and spirit make him an admirable and memorable character for young readers. Funny and witty, Stacey Matson's novel is a great choice for readers who enjoy books such as Jeffrey Brown's Jedi Academy, Lincoln Peirce's Big Nate books, or L. Pichon's Tom Gates series.