Review: Also Known as Rowan Pohi

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Also Known as Rowan PohiAlso Known as Rowan Pohi by Ralph Fletcher
Published by Clarion on November 15, 2011
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 199
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
two-half-stars

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.

It took me a while to get into this brief novel. Honestly, I was not amused by the antics of Bobby and his friends; I really don’t see what’s so funny about submitting a faked application to the local private high school. Plus, while I feel bad for Bobby’s bad home life (father infamous for having once attacked their mother with an iron, after which she split and has not been heard from since), I wasn’t too invested in it. Once he assumed the identity of Rowan Pohi, though, the story, and his life, really took off.

Of course, I want to say right now that nothing about this story is remotely believable, despite this being realistic fiction. For one thing, they would not have accepted Rowan without transcripts. Paperwork is what makes the modern world function; this is not the age where people can easily escape themselves. Also, repeated mention was made of the fact that Whitestone Academy has a rifle range. What the hell kind of high school has a rifle range? That’s just asking for a lawsuit. On top of that, there is no way at all that a private school possessed of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, amazing food, a 5:1 teacher student ratio, a rifle range and a brand new planetarium would cost only $5,000 dollars a semester. I know people who send their children to private school and it costs more than that without all of those extras.

Suspending this disbelief, though, this is a pretty fun middle grade caper. It’s interesting to see how he blends into the school, and I couldn’t help being glad that he got to go there, since he clearly has so much more potential than his high school would ever be able to make use of. Fletcher also made some interesting observations on spousal abuse and persecution, despite not focusing on those points too heavily.

Also Known as Rowan Pohi could be a good read for reluctant readers, with pretty easy language and a lot of dialogue.

 

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