Notes From the Midnight Driver is a funny book with some deep issues. Luckily though, the deeper issues are addressed in a way so they don't take away from the novel's humor.
Alex is a typical high school teen who is dealing with his parents' not-so-typical divorce (his dad left his mom for his third-grade teacher). I can just imagine some of my students reading this and stopping to remember their third-grade teacher- ha! Within the first chapter Alex is arrested when he drunkenly drives onto a yard and decapitates a yard gnome. In response to this mistake, Alex is forced to complete a hundred hours of community service in a nearby nursing home with Solomon Lewis, a very grumpy, Yiddish-speaking resident. Through his community service with Sol, Alex learns to accept his mistakes and begins to grow as a person. He even figures out that his best friend Laurie might be more than just a friend!
I can see middle-school boys and girls liking this book. The only thing that might influence readers, for good or bad, is the use of jazz music. Some students might not be able to identify with some of the famous jazz musicians and music that play an intricate part in the plot of the book. One way I could use this in the classroom is by focusing on theme. Alex periodically writes letters to his judge (who ends up being Sol's estranged daughter) about how the community service is going. Based on these letters, I would have the students determine what they believe the theme to be at that point in the book. I would then have students look over their themes by the end of the novel and see how they evolved. That could then lead into how author's use characters and events to help the reader identify with their theme.