The Book Junkie

Neil Schusterman’s  “The Schwa was Here” is an engaging and well-told story. Calvin Schwa, one of Antony “Antsy” Bonano’s classmates, is invisible. Well, not really, but he blends in to the point that he is what Antsy calls “effectively invisible.” He sits next to Antsy in science class, but Antsy has never noticed him. Antsy, Calvin (“the Schwa”), and a couple of other friends embark on a series of experiments to test the Schwa’s invisibility. They have him dress in a crazy costume and sing and dance in the girls’ bathroom, among other tests; no one ever notices him. His name is appropriate: like the schwa sound in language, Calvin blends into his surroundings. Antsy and friends decide to use the Schwa’s invisibility to pull a prank on the neighborhood recluse, Old Man Crawley. However, Mr. Crawley catches them at it, and requires that Antsy and the Schwa return every day to walk his 14 Afghans as punishment. After a time, Mr. Crawley asks them to befriend his blind granddaughter. The paradox of the girl who can’t see and the boy who can’t be seen leads both Antsy and Calvin to question themselves. Ultimately, “The Scwha was Here” is a story of identity: finding it, losing it, not having it, and rebelling against it. In the end, the Schwa discovers his identity by discovering what really happened to his mother who disappeared many years ago, and Antsy discovers his by befriending and respecting both a strange boy and an eccentric old man.

I loved this story; it was very readable and teaches important lessons without the reader being aware of them.

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