Speak, 182 pages
Released August 26, 2002
Tree is twelve years old and too tall: six feet, three and a half inches and growing. He's never really been able to fit in at school or on the basketball team, and since his parents' divorce he isn't even comfortable in his own home. Tree copes by helping people like his grandpa, a Vietnam vet who's just had part of a leg amputated, and Sophie, a new girl at school who is being teased by the popular kids. In helping his grandpa learn to walk again, and in listening to Sophie's advice that he be himself, Tree begins to heal, to stand tall. But when a flood threatens his town and his home, Tree's newfound confidence is put to the test.
"Sometimes you've got to shout the truth and wake people up."
3 stars / 5
Despite the rating, I did actually like this book and found nothing to complain about. It's a simple story of a boy, named Sam but nicknamed Tree due to his tall size (6'3" in 7th grade!), coping with his parents' divorce through helping his Vietnam vet grandfather and befriending a new girl at school. In every way, it's how a Tall Boy learns to Stand Out.
It's a sweet story, and though I have not experienced anything Tree does (I was 5'2" in seventh grade and my parents are, thankfully, still together), it feels very real. Joan Bauer does fabulous with a male protagonist, nailing the tone and dialogue (or lack thereof, as the case of a 12-year-old awkward boy always is). I was made to feel for Tree and root for him. I was sad at how his family seems to be crumbling, happy when he had breakthroughs, hopeful when he has friends and family that love him.
But still...I'm very "meh" about the book itself. Perhaps I just didn't connect to it because I'm not like Tree at all, but nothing excited me. It was predictable in a safe way, had a very clear rise and fall and resolution, and was generally just another story for me. I would recommend Middle Graders read this, as it may speak to them and offer a character to connect with.
Still...quick, good read; but passable. Library read, if you get around to it.