The Story: Living near the prestigious Whitestone Prep all his life has Bobby feeling bummed about starting tenth grade at his less than ideal public school. Bobby is smart, and knows he has what it takes to kick ass and take names at a school like Whitestone Prep. As a joke, he and his friends create a fictional person to apply to Whitestone. And thus, Rowan Pohi is born. What they don’t expect is for Rowan to actually get accepted. What Bobby expects even less is his impulsive plan to show up at Whitestone on orientation day pretending to be Rowan.
The Low Down: Rowan Pohi has a lot of elements thrown together for one story. We have Bobby, who is a smart kid but doesn’t like to show his intelligence at his less than satisfactory public school. He has the obligatory slack-off friends, the gorgeous girl who (miraculously) might like him back, a 5-year-old brother, an MIA mother, and a recovering alcoholic father who isn’t terribly involved with either of his two sons. Between the dysfunctional family and all the back and forth from Bobby to Rowan, my head felt full afterwards. But, despite that, I loved the concept and it was pretty well done. I just that I think the story needed to cleaned up a teeny, tiny bit more.
The message comes through loud and clear, though. Bobby is torn between the life he wants and the life he has. He knows that he can’t get away with being Rowan forever, and he has a decision to make: give up a quality education (which will land him in a great college and a better life for himself) or succumb to his life as is, with a reformed alcoholic/abusive father, crappy schooling, and ultimately grab a first class ticket to Nowhere-Ville. By pretending to be Rowan, Bobby learns more about who he is than he ever thought he would.
Readability: Speedy Gonzalez Rowan Pohi isn’t too lengthy and has a smooth flowing story with a writing style that will have readers plowing through it.
The Bottom Line: While I wouldn’t give it top honors, Rowan Pohi is a good story about digging deep to discover who you are and what you want, and how far you’re willing to go to get there (no matter how unorthodox it may be).
OFFICIAL RATING: 7/10
Book Pairings: If you’re into the prep school thing, try The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. It takes place at a super-elite private school, and is all about getting in and getting even with everyone who thinks they’re too cool for school (literally in this case).