Richard Peck delivers yet another realistic, believable and relevant novel that takes the reader to average Americana in The Best Man. A delightful novel with characters that are likable and relatable and a storyline that is filled with fun and quirky twists and turns. It is all told from the first person perspective of 11/12-year-old Archer. This novel deals with a controversial topic in a down-to-earth way without becoming controversial. As Archer deals with 5th and 6th grade throughout the novel, he recognizes how lucky he is to have such great role models in his life. However, sometimes, he realizes, people aren’t always what they seem or how he perceives them. It is with this realization in others, as well as in himself, that Archer grows as a character.
Archer is your typical 11 year old, dealing with school bullies, managing 5th and 6th grade social scene as well realizing how lucky he is to have such a great family. This support of his family allows him to reach out to others that maybe need a friend or a little support. However, throughout the novel, Archer realizes just how oblivious he is to details, from his best friend’s parents’ impending divorce, to the fact that his uncle is gay. Throughout the novel, Archer makes the choice to stand up for others and defend what’s right. He makes it a point to recognize just what people mean to him and how they help him become a better person.
Regardless on which side one falls when it comes to the same-sex marriage issue, Peck handles the issue in a way that makes the reader look at it in a non-controversial way, something that is not only important but relevant for the generation this novel is written for. Young people that fall in this age group clearly will be confronted with the issue of same-sex marriage and will surely know someone who is gay, so being able to approach the subject in a way that treats everyone as a person–and not a label–as shown in The Best Man is a way to teach about a relevant issue without becoming preachy or too politically correct. If you want to have an open discussion with your child about the topic of same-sex marriage, this novel might be a good way to introduce it, as it doesn’t condemn or tell one which side is right.
Review of an Advance Reader’s Copy
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Dial Books for Young Readers
Profanity/Language: Note: Word ‘gay’ used in a derogatory way.
Violence/Gore: Girl says she hit a boy and knocked him down in the mud; boy pulls a pocket knife out on another boy in a threatening way; 2 girls get in a fist fight and knock each other to the ground; character threatens to break someone’s arm if another character touches them; character has hands tied to the sink and has a derogatory name written on his forehead; rumor told how severed hands keep being found in the lockers; rumor told how 7th graders bully, beat up and steal from the 6th graders; character threatened that if he doesn’t pay up to the bully he’ll break his legs.
Sex/Nudity: 2 characters describe themselves as gay; there is a wedding where two men marry (at the end of the wedding the officiator says they may kiss, but it does not say that they kiss).
Mature Subject Matter:
Sickness, death of family member, homosexuality, divorce.
Alcohol / Drug Use: