What Schwa?

My summer vacation is about to end and I’ll be facing a new trimester once more, bringing me a few more months closer to graduation, and my parents finally free of monetary responsibility over their slightly wayward child. I am close of becoming an official asset to society! Isn’t that exciting?

The Schwa was Here by Neal Shusterman

The Hypothesis: 

They say if you stare at him long enough, you can see what’s written on the wall behind him. They say a lot of things about the Schwa, but one thing’s for sure: no one ever noticed him. Except me. My name is Antsy Bonano—and I can tell you what’s true and what’s not, ’cause I was there. I was the one who realized the Schwa was “functionally invisible” and used him to make some big bucks. But I was also the one who caused him more grief than a friend should. So if you all just shut up and listen, I’ll spill everything. Unless, of course, “the Schwa Effect” wipes him out of my brain before I’m done…

Thoughts

Antsy is a delightful story-teller and his voice is probably my favorite from all the novels I’ve read. His narration is carefree and jumpy but creative, complete with snarky illustrations for both hilarious and sad situations. Characters are made more interesting with Antsy’s narration (which is the real highlight of the book for me), and I very much learned a lot from this kid.  He can make the worst situations his best through his thought-provoking ideas and make us feel better with his natural, hearty cracks that prove that he is very much a sane kid of his age who prefers to accept things as they are rather than angst about it. And he does something about his worries, which make him the healthiest teenager I’ve ever read about, and a good example of the pro-active youth (yes, vandalize the whole town Antsy!).

Life is like a bad haircut. At first it looks awful, then you kind of get used to it, and before you know it, it it grows out and you gotta get another haircut that maybe won’t be so bad, unless of course you keep going to SuperClips, where the hairstylists are so terrible they oughta be using safety scissors, and when they’re done you look like your head got caught in a ceiling fan. So life goes on, good haircut, bad haircut, until finally you go bald, and it don’t matter no more.
I told this wisdom to my mother, and she said I oughta put it in a book, then burn it. Some people just can’t appreciate the profound.”

The novel explores themes of self-discovery, finding one’s purpose and place in life, from the semi-invisible Schwa to old man Crawley, plus Antsy’s noisy family. The theme is well fleshed out on each character and the wonderful thing about it is that everyone is satisfied to what they have discovered, despite the hard changes it required. I think this is the type of YA that anyone would simply enjoy and just enjoy as it does not exaggerate sad moments into sadder moments, and instead, turn them into opportunities to learn and change.

PS. The cover is really great. I really love how the cute cartoons explain so much, and it’s like playing a ‘Find the Schwa’ game. It’s the initial reason why I bought the book in the first place.

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