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A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius

Review

A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius

Arthur Aaron Bean is a Canadian seventh grader who is belatedly entering Terry Fox Junior High after the death of his mother. Arthur wants to be a famous author and fancies himself to be quite a talented writer and a gifted English student, all qualities he doesn’t hesitate to expound upon to anyone who will listen. Although Arthur can come across as a bit bristly sometimes, especially with his use of mocking humor, he is ultimately a likable and relatable character who is just trying to navigate school and life without his mother while juggling his love interest, Kennedy, and his bully, Robbie Zack.

Covering October through June, A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A COMPLETE AND TOTAL GENIUS is a story told through a variety of formats, including assignment guidelines, completed assignments, comments from Arthur’s teachers on his work, entries Arthur writes in his reading journal (RJ), newspaper articles written by Arthur, emails and progress reports from the peer tutoring program that Arthur is forced to participate in. The book is also punctuated in parts with doodles from Robbie Zack.

Arthur is a character that many middle grade readers will be able to relate to.

As noted above, Arthur has a biting humor that he often employs in his writing to discuss his classmates, particularly his enemy, the bully, Robbie Zack. In her notes on his assignments, Arthur’s English teacher Ms. Whitehead tries to make Arthur more empathetic to his classmates. Ultimately, she requires Arthur to tutor Robbie after school as a part of the school’s Peer Tutoring Program. As expected, the tension between these two initially makes the tutoring experience miserable for both boys, but they end up coming to a truce.

One of the primary plot lines that runs throughout the entire book is the Junior Authors Short Story Contest. Arthur and his classmates are required to submit a short story to the contest and are given most of the school year to work on their entries. Arthur is confident that he will win the contest with little effort, but as the deadline nears, his story has failed to take shape. The Junior Authors Short Story Contest becomes even more complicated when Arthur and Kennedy are paired as creative writing partners for the contest. I think that the email exchanges between Arthur and Kennedy contain some of the most amusing writing in the novel, especially since Kennedy’s emails are punctuated with lots of LOLs and exclamation points.

A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A COMPLETE AND TOTAL GENIUS is an enjoyable read and Arthur is a character that many middle grade readers will be able to relate to. I found the unique format to be interesting and thought it added to the story, and I appreciated the number of literary references sprinkled throughout the variety of texts. Although there is nothing to make it stand out from other current contemporary realistic fiction novels for middle graders (other than the format), I would still recommend it for that age group.

Reviewed by Aimee Rogers on December 2, 2015

A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius
by Stacey Matson

  • Publication Date: October 4, 2016
  • Genres: Children's 8-12, Friendship, Humor
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
  • ISBN-10: 1492635960
  • ISBN-13: 9781492635963