Wayne Kovak uses random facts like a fencer uses his rapier. He whips them out in an instant whenever the situation gets too worrisome. Then several things happen in fairly rapid succession that changes Wayne's life. His uncle dies in Afghanistan, Wayne and his mother are in an airplane crash, Wayne is injured so he temporarily loses his voice, and Wayne's ex-drill Sargent grandfather comes to live with him and his mom to help her while she recovers. At first Wayne can't stand his grandfather, but as time goes on he begins to admire him and see the small ways he shows his love and support for his grandson.
This was one that was on our Newbery list, but it took me a while to get to it because it is not available as a recorded book. I persisted because it was a favorite last year for both Joella and Carla, women whose opinions I trust. I am glad I read it, and like the mentioned ladies, sad it didn't get some kind of award. Wayne is charmingly quirky and his grandfather is endearingly grumpy. The relationships between Wayne, his father, his mother, his uncle and his friends, old and new, are all drawn with a subtle and sensitive hand. The tone of the book is more hopeful than some others, especially Wolf Hollow (though that is not a hard distinction to win). I think that maybe a reason why it didn't win is because the premise is kind of out there. How many plane crashes are there and how many 11 year old plain crash survivors who lose their voice? I wonder if the story would have felt more normal if he had just been in a car crash rather than a plane crash? 344 p.