Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12 years
There are some books that readers might miss out on simply because they are not featured prominently in a store nor do they have the mass appeal that other more widely popular books enjoy. Ellen Potter’s SLOB is one of those books. Recently, there were no copies of this book available at my local Barnes & Noble and even at the local indie bookstore the only copy was way above kids’ eye level and if I hadn’t been looking for something else I wouldn’t have even seen it. To me, this is a shame because SLOB is an amazing piece of middle grade fiction which I only happened upon because it was assigned reading as part of a book club.
I will say that this review is going to be difficult to write because I really don’t want to give away any spoilers. What I can tell you is that the story is about a 12 year old boy named Owen who is a genius and overweight. With that information you might think that this is just another one of those middle school stories about a boy who is bullied because of his size. And though that is a big part of the book, it really isn’t what the story is all about. This is the first time that I can actually say that not having even read the summary made the book more enjoyable. I was able to truly appreciate the author’s skill in unveiling the motivations behind Owen’s behaviors.
My suggestion at this point is for you to stop reading the review and go out and read the book. This way I don’t have to worry about spoiling the story for you. However, since you are not likely to just go out and purchase a book because I said for you to do it, then if you must continue reading on be forewarned that there may be some spoilers.
The story opens with Owen discovering that the three oreo cookies in his lunch have been stolen. To most of us, this may not seem like a big deal, but for Owen, those three cookies help get him through his school day. Owen is the smartest and fattest seventh grader in his school. When he isn’t trying to discover who is stealing his lunch, he is trying to cope with a cruel P.E. teacher, and avoid the school bully. At home, Owen is an inventor who is attempting to build a machine that can capture digital information from a specific date and time from two years ago. Much of what seems like one thing on the surface turns out to be quite another thing as the story unfolds including the title of the book.
Anyone who has every gone through middle school will be able to relate with some part of Owen’s story. You will find places that will make you laugh and other parts that will make you want to cry. Potter does a wonderful job telling Owen’s story and though the ending might seem a little too nicely wrapped up, it does provide for a satisfying and hopeful conclusioin. Overall, SLOB is a stand-out in the field of “coming of age” stories. I recommended it to my sixth graders and have made it a point to tell my local bookstores that this is one book that should be on their shelves.