by John Gosselink

Abrams Books for Young Readers, $14.95, 233 pages

The Defense of Thaddeus A. Ledbetter is a first-time novel by teacher, John Gosselink. Illustrated by Marie T. Middleton in the same fresh style of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the book is a complete file of Thaddeus’ documentation, clippings, fun facts, pictures and defense of the misunderstandings for his recent behaviors. While this work is meant to be humorous and lighthearted, it only makes one sad in the lack of teachers’ abilities, the principal’s intolerance and the lack of perception by his mom and uncle in his life. Not one teacher would take this clever, intelligent, sarcastic but observant deviant under their wings and find a way for him to explore his own talents. Thaddeus’ father passed away from cancer leaving him heartbroken and unable to find healthy ways to utilize his desire to make life better for everyone. His ideology of streamlining processes and finding efficiencies is a cry for help and no one is there to guide him through that. The overall intent to be a hilarious tween read is definitely sensed but is overshadowed by the great tragedy of this endearing young man’s struggle to get through an immensely difficult situation. A for effort and characterization but D- for authenticity.

Reviewed by M. Chris Johnson,