Conventional writing wisdom is that the first few lines of a story should grab the reader. Consider this opening paragraph:
"I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for a while, and that's the truth, the whole truth. The unvanquished truth, is how Freak would say it, and for a long time it was him who did the talking. Except I had a way of saying things with my fists and my feet even before we became Freak the Mighty, slaying dragons and fools and walking high above the world."
From there, Rodman Philbrick, the author, leads readers through a story of two boys who individually confront traumatic pasts as well as struggle day-to-day with their disabilities. Maxwell is a huge 7th grader who is diagnosed with a learning disability; his father killed his mother and is prematurely released on parole. Kevin is a genius dwarf with Morquio Syndrome; his father also abandoned him and his battle is against time and the limitations of his diseased body. Together they become an inseparable team.
With Kevin riding high on his shoulders, Maxwell learns he not only can "slay dragons," but defeat town bullies and overcome his fears about his father and school. Kevin finds an invaluable friend who loves and respects him.
Philbrick weaves their stories together masterfully. I love the voices of the two characters, the layers of meaning, and how Philbrick brings us a story about friendship and acceptance, as well as about death and healing.