I loved Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt so I was really looking forward to reading his newest book, First Boy. I was a little disappointed that this book wasn’t as beautiful and lyrical, but it was still an interesting read.
14 year-old Cooper Jewett grew up with his grandparents on a dairy farm in New Hampshire. After his grandparents pass away, Cooper is determined to maintain the dairy farm on his own. Soon he is feeling overworked between taking care of the farm, trying to keep up in school, and practicing with the cross country. Things get worse when mysterious black sedans swarm the town, Cooper’s fence is vandalized, his house is broken into, and his barn is burned down. The sheriff denies that anything is going on and threatens to file a report to have Cooper removed from the farm by child services. Senator Wickham approaches Cooper and asks him to join his campaign for the presidency. Cooper wants to stay on his farm, but it seems the Senator won’t take no for an answer.
That’s as far as I can go without any big spoilers.
There were a few things that really bothered me about this book. The first is that I felt like Schmidt really underestimates the intelligence of 14 year-olds. Cooper isn’t quick to put things together and he isn’t curious. What 14 year-old would hear at his grandfather’s funeral that neither of his parents had the last name Jewett (his own last name) and not be curious, especially when he’d never heard anything about them or seen any pictures? What 14 year-old wouldn't have spent years pestering everyone in the town to gather more infomration? It takes Cooper quite awhile to figure out that the Senator might have deeper motives for picking a random kid from a dairy farm in New Hampshire to join him on the campaign trail. It also takes him quite awhile to figure out that the Sheriff is on the senator’s side. It takes him ages to piece together how he might be involved in something that could scandalize the President of the US. I think Cooper would have probably been a little smarter, and I would have liked him more if he was.
Second, the novel never delves into how Cooper might feel angry and hurt that the people who seem to be his real parents totally deny it and make no effort to make sure that he’s ok. I think that would be on the forefront of any kid’s mind.
Third, reading this novel you would think that only the people of New Hampshire get to vote for President because all of the campaigning takes place there and there’s so much talk on the importance of what New Hampshire dairymen think of the candidates.
Even though I did have some problems with the book, it was still action packed, and a lot of kids will enjoy reading about Cooper’s adventures. I have to remind myself that not every book can be as wonderful and Lizzie Bright, and there was still a lot of fun, original content in this novel.