I have finished the 91st book for the book challenge. It was Zen And The Art Of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick.
San Lee is a thirteen-year-old eighth-grader in a suburban Pennsylvania middle school. This is his first year at this school. He is the new kid. He has moved to this town with his mother, a nurse while his father is in prison for fraud. He has lived in many different places in the past few years and has trouble putting down roots because the family has moved so frequently because of his father’s work.
Now he’s the new kid at school. He’s in social studies class and meets a girl named Woody (Emily) who plays guitar in the school cafeteria at lunch time. He’s quite smitten with her. Mr. Dowd the social studies teacher assigns the class a project on world religions. San chooses Zen Buddhism and goes to the library and checks out a number of books from Mildred the librarian on Zen Buddhism. He makes himself into a Zen master and people tend to believe that he is, because he is of Chinese descent.
Woody is San’s partner on the Zen Buddhism project. She thinks they should focus on Zen and basketball. Using Zen principles to get the form of shooting baskets correct. San cannot shoot baskets worth anything, but Woody endeavors to teach San. “Become the ball, San,” she advises him. They also decide to apply Buddhist principles and volunteer at the soup kitchen in town. Woody and San are charged with washing dishes at the soup kitchen where Mildred and Sister Mary Clare work with the homeless of the town. Woody and San are attracted to each other. Woody thinks San is some sort of a Zen master because he tries to meditate each morning before school and only wears sandals and a light windbreaker. He stashes his sneakers and winter jacket in the storm sewer on the way to school so that no one will see them.
Then comes the big test of Zen Buddhism. San’s little group of “disciples” will play basketball against the A Team in a match the whole school will watch. They play and are doing well when one of their players is injured and must sit out. Now San must play. San does play and he scores the winning basket for his team. But his mother is there. The kids find out that she is not Chinese; there is not a “tradition.” They find out that he has been hiding his clothes and learned Zen Buddhism from books. He has been pretending all this time. Peter, Woody’s step-brother, punches San in the nose. San is in disgrace.
San goes through the rest of the school year in disgrace. He continues to work at the soup kitchen. Eventually Emily (Woody) comes back. She forgives him for deceiving her and they become friends again. He writes to his father and attempts to forgive his father. He looks forward to high school in the fall. He is finished with pretending.
This was a young adult book. It is geared to middle-school students. It concerns the trials and tribulations of a young man who is unhappy at home and who wants desperately to fit in at his new school and who wants to impress people and make friends. It’s easy to see why he perpetrates this deception. It makes him feel special. It gives him something that people can look to him for guidance about. He has a special skill. It makes him feel important. It wins the admiration of his peers, especially of Woody (Emily). It is a good lesson is not pretending to be someone you aren’t, in being yourself. Younger children would also like this book.