Jensen has big plans for his future. He wants to be an astronaut and has already begun researching sunspots, something that makes everyone around him roll their eyes. In his daydreams Jensen is the hero of every situation and he is happily unaware that his real life is not as great. His "friends" call him names and say rude things to him. But they're just joking, right? It's not until Jensen gets involved with the newspaper crew who wants to interview him for a project on bullying that he even realizes he is a victim of some of that behavior.
This book grew on my slowly as Chmakova pulled me into a light story about a daydreaming boy and then sneakily turned it into a strong message book about bullying. Jensen is a winning character, kinda clueless about life as many new middle schoolers are, with a perception of himself that does not match his reality (like A LOT of people). His realization that he is being bullied is great, particularly because the questionnaire that helps him see this deals with the considerably less obvious forms of bullying, not just physical bullying. As he looks around with new eyes, he also becomes more aware of how others are being excluded and takes it upon himself to do what he can to make a difference. The "brick by brick" analogy is so powerful and hopeful and completely won me over. I'm sure that's partly because I, myself, feel that some problems we are facing are just too big and I have no impact on changing them. It's a good affirmation to remind readers that all our actions together can make a difference a little at a time. And it's also one of the few books around that offers some solutions to bullying, not just calling out the behavior.