Hidden Talents -- David Lubar
Martin Anderson has been kicked out of every school he's ever attended, and he's just arrived at the end of the line: Edgeview Alternative. It's his last stop. Get expelled from Edgeview, and there's nowhere left to go.
It isn't so much that Martin is a BAD kid -- he doesn't start fires, like his new roommate Torchie, or cheat on every single test, quiz & homework assignment like Cheater, or constantly throw things for no apparent reason like Trash... Martin just has a tendency to mouth off a little, as he explains to Torchie:
"I'm here because I seem to have a bit of a problem respecting authority. That's how they put it. Well, that's how the polite ones put it. I've also been called a major pain in the butt, a disturbing influence, a smart mouth, and a snotty-nosed little puke, among other things." I didn't bother adding some of Dad's more colorful phrases.
Of course, every school has an obligatory psychotic jackass*. Bloodbath is Edgeview's:
Bloodbath, passing by in the other direction, glanced back and grinned. I guess the punch was his way of saying hello. It would have been nice to return the greeting with a baseball bat, but there didn't seem to be one handy. I waited until he was out of sight before I rubbed the sore spot.
But, you say, what does any of that have to do with the title? Why is this book called Hidden Talents?
Okay, so the jacket flap gives it away. But as it doesn't overtly factor into the story until about halfway through the book, I don't want to just come out and say it. Here's a big clue, though: All of Martin's new friends -- Torchie, Cheater and the rest -- have consistently denied ANY wrongdoing.
Roll that one around in your brain for a while**.
At the end of each chapter, other documents are included -- a copy of a teacher's memo, a student's assignment, a letter, a transcript of a conversation, and a few times, a hilariously bad poem:
A single grain of mighty sand,
I hold it lovingly in my hand.
Gentle orb, so small and simple.
A single grain, oh wondrous sand
Who came, perhaps from a foreign land
A speck no bigger than a pimple.
I love David Lubar, even though I haven't read nearly enough of his books. Everything that I have read has ranged from enjoyable to just plain excellent. This one is lots of fun, not too dark or deep -- a solid pick for a reluctant reader.
Spoiler-laden minor nitpicky whiny complaint in the comments.
Regardless of my minor nitpicky whiny complaint, I'll be reading the sequel, True Talents, as soon as I get my hands on it.
*Thank you, Veronica Mars. I love that line.
**Yeah, okay. It really isn't that difficult. The title alone did it for me. But I still didn't want to be HORRIBLY spoileriffic. If you still haven't figured it out, though, here's another clue: As a pre-teen, I was a huge, huge fan of The Girl With the Silver Eyes.