Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: Also Known as Rowan Pohi by Ralph Fletcher

Also Known as Rowan Pohi
by Ralph Fletcher
Publication Date: November 15, 2011
Published by Clarion Books
Source: Requested from Netgalley
Purchase Amazon 

(from Goodreads)

Bobby Steele and his pals, Marcus and Big Poobs, all public school kids from working class backgrounds, are waiting for tenth grade to start when they come across an application form for Whitestone Academy, a prestigious and posh private school. Just for giggles, they decide that a nonexistent kid should apply—and so Rowan Pohi is born. (Named for their favorite hangout, Pohi is IHOP spelled backwards.) Amazingly enough, the phantom Rowan is accepted at Whitestone.

Eager to escape the boredom of public school and his unhappiness at home, Bobby shows up at Whitestone’s new student orientation, reinventing himself as Rowan. He begins a  suspenseful career as an impostor, hoping that the two worlds he’s living in will stay separate forever. For a short, exhilarating time, they do. Ralph Fletcher’s signature light touch in addressing serious issues in young people’s lives is evident in this story of identity lost and found.

My Thoughts

**contains Spoilers**

Ralph Fletcher doesn't waste any time jumping in to the story of Bobby Steele, aka Rowan Pohi, as we meet Bobby and his best friends right before the beginning of tenth grade. Out of boredom and a bit of mischievousness, the boys create a smart, athletic, and outgoing guy - Rowan Pohi. After submitting an application and a glowing letter of recommendation on his behalf, Rowan is admitted to Whitestone Prep. The boys are excited and a bit dumbfounded that they have pulled one over on the school admissions committee but decide that Rowan can no longer exist and decide to kill him off and bury the application as well as the acceptance letter. Poor Rowan didn't even have a chance.

Bobby Steele can stop thinking of Rowan, partly because he imagined himself as Rowan - he was athletic. He was intelligent, and he could have gone to Whitestone Prep given the right opportunity and the money to pay for tuition. And Bobby has another reason why Rowan should have a chance - a domestic incident involving his parents, leaves Bobby and his family the talk of the town and him with a name that he doesn't want to claim. Rowan Pohi is then reborn.

In a community separated by class, Bobby is able to infiltrate the school as Rowan without much opposition. He makes some friends easily - the girls are taken with him. The teachers are too as Rowan begins to prove himself academically as well as on the football field. But his pasts (both real and fake) start to catch up with him. Rowan's transcripts from his former school still haven't arrived and a classmate reveals that he knows about Rowan's little secret and wants him to pay-up. Bobby realizes that he may have jumped into this Rowan Pohi persona a bit too impulsively and it's going to catch up with him - sooner than he thinks.

I enjoyed getting to know Bobby and Rowan as he/they navigated going to a new school and created a fresh start. There were many events that happened too easily for Rowan without much question - getting into the school and then the repercussions of what happened after his true identity was revealed. But I did think the relationship that Bobby had with his family was realistic. Bobby's father's horrible actions were not easily forgiven and he continues to see his father through the eyes of a child aged beyond their years through a traumatic experience. The light-hearted moments balance out all of the heavy and make Also Known a Rowan Pohi a quick and enjoyable read about identity and acceptance - of self and others.

Readers who like this book should also read Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach.

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