Steven Kent's Reviews > The Schwa Was Here

The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman
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's review
Nov 01, 11

bookshelves: light-reading, young-adult-kids

I really like Neal Shusterman's work. I prefer the audio versions of his work because I like his reading as well as his writing. He's a good reader. He doesn't have all the voices of a Jonathan Davis or a Frank Muller, but he is an enthusiastic reader who knows his characters. He really bring them to life.

In The Schwa Was Here, there are a trio of very vivid characters to bring to life--Anthony "Antsy" Bonano--the protagonist/narrator, Calvin Schwa--the eponymous "Schwa," and Mr. Crawley, a wealthy shut-in who does everything he can to advance the story.

For the record, the term "Schwa" refers to toneless, "neutral" vowels which appear in words but do not impact the way they are pronounced. This is not how Calvin Schwa came by the name, though he is a "nearly invisible" character who is overlooked by teachers, classmates, even his father. Calvin's grandfather, an immigrant named Schwartz, had a heart attack while passing through Ellis Island. he was asked his name, got as far as "Schwa," and died. The name not only stuck, it fit.

When Antsy's father, who works for Pischer Plastics, brings home a supposedly indestructible dummy, twelve-year-old Antsy and friends set to the task of testing its indestructibility with vigor. Their first attempt involves throwing it off a bridge.. and that is when they meet the Schwa.

The dummy's head comes off--it was made to be detachable--and comes back in the hands of a strange kid who seems nearly invisible. He is bland and blends in with his environment whether he wants to or not. The kid knows Antsy--turns out they sit next to each other in science class.

A topic like this could easily turn into a Columbine High School type story, but in happy and competent hands such as Neal Shusterman's, it leads to a story of character development and humor.

Calvin needs a friend, Antsy is the kind of guy who can't turn away from an underdog; so together, they set out to make the Schwa someone the world won't soon forget.
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