There are parts of Absolutely Almost that I really loved, and parts that fell flat for me. The main character, Albie, is a good example. Albie is a fifth-grade boy that struggles in school, is bullied by kids in his class, and has parents who flat out fail him in so many ways. You can’t help but root for him to come out on top…but, I couldn’t get over the feeling that something was not quite “real” or fully developed about the character.
Socially, he seems much younger than the fifth-grade age he is supposed to be. He is also behind his peers in math and spelling. Yet, his learning difficulties and lack of social development are never fully addressed or resolved. As wonderful as some of his teachers are at his new school, it would seem that more of the story would have focused on addressing the academic and social gaps that exist between Albie and the norm for peers his age.
I also had serious concerns about his parents. His mother and father are both notably absent in his life, except when they pop up to criticize him. He doesn’t try hard enough on spelling tests, he is reading the wrong books, he should want to run for a class office. They have no idea who their son is, or the struggles he is facing.
Albie does learn to advocate for himself somewhat by the end of the story, but I was left feeling like I wanted something more than what Lisa Graff provided.