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The Schwa Was Here

(Antsy Bonano #1)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  8,762 ratings  ·  964 reviews
They say if you stare at him long enough, you can see what’s written on the wall behind him. They say a lot of things about the Schwa, but one thing’s for sure: no one ever noticed him. Except me. My name is Antsy Bonano—and I can tell you what’s true and what’s not, ’cause I was there. I was the one who realized the Schwa was “functionally invisible” and used him to make ...more
Paperback, Puffin Book, 240 pages
Published March 2nd 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2004)
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Kady Park It was published on March 2nd, 2006.

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3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,762 ratings  ·  964 reviews

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Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-grade
Dec 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novelist-reviews
There's a story I tell in trainings about a high school where teachers were given a list of students and asked to put a gold star next to students they knew. At the end of the day, the result was a classic bell curve: a small group of over-achievers known by all, a larger group of average kids known by some, and a small group known by just about no teacher: that's Calvin Schwa. The Schwa is a human magic trick: he seems to vanish into thin air, that is until Antsy (Anthony, the book's M.C.) and ...more
Jun 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now Shusterman's Unwind was edgy and mind-boggling (and terrifying in its premise), but I can't say the writing itself was my favorite. In this book, however, I fell in love with the narrative voice. Shusterman showed great skill in creating a character whose first-person narration painted such a clear image of a smart-alecky, young teenage Italian kid, and I totally bought it.

Not every author has the ability to give his character an accent, slang, and some bad grammar in a believable way. It ju
Shoa Khan

OMG! I can't believe I lucked out again! Last year it was Holes and this year started out with this superfun read. The reason I picked this one was that I knew this was about the closest I'd ever get to reading about a character with the same name as mine :P
Moving on to matters of lesser consequence (or not), it is an inexplicable joy to finish a book on the first day of the year! It's also heartwarming to see everybody else on GR going crazy as well. Whoop!
Now, about the book, this is the story
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Schwa is definitely the most used and most forgottən vowel in the English language. Not too many sentənces can be created without using ə schwa.

The schwa is a boy named Calvin Schwa whose last name was shortənəd from Schwartz when his grandfather came over frəm Eastern Europe. The Schwa is nearly invisible, he is one əf those people that you jəst don't notice ever.He could be standing right next to you and you wouldn't even notice him. He strəggles with "the Schwa effect" and the disappeara
Alex Murphy
May 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Alex by: my middle school librarian
The Schwa was Here was my first book by Neal Shusterman that I read. The librarian at my school recommended it to me, and although I don't usually read recommended books because my list is so long anyways, I was so entertained by the title of chapter one ("Manny Bullpucky Gets His Sorry Butt Hurled Off the Marine Park Bridge") that I stopped what I was doing to investigate further.

The title to chapter one is as dull as this book gets. The narration by Antsy has a lot of character and the whole c
Nov 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
My sis and I read this and its
Never again will I know a book so cool... unless I read it again hehehehehehe. FabulOUS book FO SHO, recommended to anyone with the ability to read. Love Jessie and Meghan the cooliest and most thorough book reviewers ever!!!
Apr 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Entirely original concept, as far as I can tell. Anthony "Antsy" Bonano narrates the story of how he met and became friends with Calvin Schwa (called "The Schwa" by everyone). The Schwa is "observationally challenged": no one notices him. Ever. Even if he dresses in costume and wears a bright orange sombrero in the boys' bathroom at school, no one notices. And while that may have some advantages, the disadvantages decidedly outweight them. Calvin needs to be noticed. (And don't we all?) Before l ...more
Apr 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
The Schwa was here is a fiction book set in Brooklyn, New York, about a boy named Antsy Bonano, who makes friends with a boy named Calvin Schwa. "The Schwa" as they call him, has an ability to be semi-invisible, or he can passed unnoticed in crowds, he's is sometimes unable to be seen at all, and he seems to slip people's mind when they try to think of him. Throughout the book both Calvin and Antsy struggle with their invisibility: Antsy feels invisible because he is a middle child and the peace ...more
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
C.P. Cabaniss
May 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, young-adult
As with any Shusterman book, this was extremely thought provoking. It didn't grip me in the same way his other books have, but I really enjoyed listening to it and felt that it, like all of his stories, had wisdom to impart.

Calvin's feeling of invisibility is likely relatable to almost any reader. All of us feel invisible at some point, whether it's at home, school, among our friends, sometimes we feel overlooked and forgotten. Just take that feeling and multiply by one thousand and you have Ca
Jul 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Middle Schoolers (Freshmen?)
Shelves: book-group, tween
Very interesting basis for a story. Eighth-grader "Antsy" Bonano recounts how his accidental relationship with three quirky characters winds up being mutually beneficial. The catalyst in this social collision is Calvin Schwa, a classmate who has an almost supernatural knack for going completely unnoticed. When Antsy decides to become an "agent" for the "nearly invisible" Schwa by entertaining wagers on what he can get away with by being able to fly almost entirely beneath the social radar, the b ...more
Cassi aka Snow White Haggard
The Schwa Was Here is the type of book I sometime miss. It's the type that gets lost in the shuffle of paranormal, dystopians, urban fantasy, etc etc. It's not quite a contemporary. It's a book that's hard to describe--contemporary with a little bit it whimsy, wonder or magic?

The Schwa, aka Calvin Schwa, is functionally invisible or observationally challenged. They say if you stare at him long enough you'll see the wall behind him. He's not the type of kid who's face you forget. He's the
Brigid ✩
Aug 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, young-adult
pretty awesome, and i expect no less from neal shusterman!! i must say, shusterman is a really talented author; i love how his tone varies completely from book to book. who would think that the same person would write something as utterly disturbing and depressing as Unwind, and yet be capable of writing a book as funny as The Schwa Was Here? Strange... but that's what i luv about neal shusterman!! now to go to the library and check out like every single book he's ever written... i'm becoming a ...more
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Donalyn by: I just found it.
I do not usually read the same books to my class year after year, but this one has been an annual favorite with my sixth graders for the past four years, and yes, I will be reading it to them again.

A rare book that appeals to both boys and girls.
Ivan Magnus
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Touch is a freaky thing when you're not used to it. It makes you feel all kinds of things."

And Mr. Shusterman had done it again! This is a fun, light read (finished it in a day and had a hard time putting it down) but it also very deep if that's makes sense.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quirky, offbeat story.

Antsy is a great narrator, the family dynamics are well done, and it's full of gems like, "jea-lousy," which is jealous and lousy, and "It's called loitering, which is like littering with human beings as the trash." Plus, the title is a linguistics thing, so obviously points for that. Highly enjoyed this.
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Allison Fraclose for

Anthony "Antsy" Bonano can't really figure out what's wrong with The Schwa. His classmate, Calvin Schwa, has always just been...around.

A nondescript face on a nondescript kid, The Schwa always seems to just blend into the background, and could be standing right in front of you for half an hour before you even notice he's there - and that's only if he speaks up and says something. Antsy finds it difficult to even think about The Schwa without his m
Duffy Pratt
Jun 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens
I've read the Skinjacker series, and the beginning of the Skinjacker series. In those, Shusterman is very strong on content and plotting, and he draws very clever consequences from his initial strong premises. They are, first and foremost, stories that involve big ideas, and they take place on a very big stage. By contrast, the narrative voice in those books is fine, but not particularly special. So I would have guessed that that was what Shusterman does. And his domain name of "" bo ...more
Karen ⊰✿
Told by Antsy Bonano, this is the story of how Calvin Shwa is "functionally invisible". Most people can't see when he is right in front of them and even if they do, they often forget he exists - a term deemed "the Shwa effect".
Antsy and Calvin become friends and do some experiments regarding "the Shwa effect" and through this process Antsy realises there is more to Calvin than even he has realised.
This is a great coming of age story from Shusterman - a classic tale but with an almost invisible c
Eric Boot
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! I read another book of Neal Shusterman before, Unwind. But this one was so different (in a positive way!) There was a lot of good humour and I laughed a lot :) Fans of John Green will be growing crazy reading this book!
Lauren Waters
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a great book to share with anyone that has ever felt unnoticed and different. It would pair nicely with Trudy Ludwig's The Invisible Boy. I also liked the main character's strong voice and dynamic changes/realizations of how to treat others throughout the course of the novel.
Tory C.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, fiction
The Schwa Was Here: Or Was He?

I’ve read many books that were created around a killer idea that fell flat because the author was unable to create a meaningful story to give wings to the idea. The killer idea becomes a liability like an anchor stuck in debris on the harbor floor. In The Schwal Was Here Neal Shusterman was able to infuse a much larger story with the Schwa—a story that takes flight.

Of course I was intrigued by the Schwa when I met him. Who could resist a boy you’ve never seen before
Dec 01, 2010 rated it really liked it

Who or what is the Schwa? Where did “it” come from? Why is it the way it is? Turns out the Schwa A.K.A Calvin is just a normal kid for the most part; that is, if you noticed him enough to get to know him. That’s exactly how Antsy found out about him. Antsy was the first out of his friends, Howie and Ira, to notice the Schwa was tagging along with them one day out of nowhere. Antsy started to wonder… has he always been sneaking around and following us? How come no one has noticed him? Why is he
Lady Poppy
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was really cute and interesting and I liked it a lot. I think it was definitely more middle grade than I expected it to be (I didn't really check before going on, and I'm doing this for a young adult project), but it had a good message and interesting ending. Calvin, Antsy, and Lexie were sweet and I'm glad Howie and Ira got kicked out of the story very early on; they were jerks.
Chey Stenz
Oct 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I loved the second half of this book the first half was kinda boring. But, the ending, you don't know! But this book is so amazing it has romance, friendship, hardship and it tests every bond that Ansty has with anybody. But anyone who is trying to keep their best friend visible would have to test that.
Ms. B
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, 2017, series, ya, 2018
This story about Calvin Schwa, a young teen who borderlines on being invisible to others around him starts a little slow as author Neal Shusterman sets up the story. But once he has, watch out! Told with humor, this bittersweet story about a very real boy who is forgettable to others will be unforgettable to you.
Fans of the style of humor found in The Fourth Stall<\i> or Timmy Failure<\i> will enjoy one.
Connor Craig
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found the book "The Schwa Was Here" by Antsy Bonano, was one of the better books I have read this year for my independent reading. The characters I found were interesting like Calvin Schwa and Antsy, especially "The Schwa." The idea of The Schwa going invisible to crowds is an interesting idea which made this book pretty good. I would recommend this book for people who enjoy some simple fiction books, and for young adults.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
4.5 stars. Both the writing style and the characterization in this novel are witty and well-developed. I found myself smiling and chuckling through most of the book, but it also addressed complex issues and heavier emotions. Overall, a great read.
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Internal Conflict: Crawley 1 3 Dec 10, 2015 08:57AM  
External Conflict 1 2 Dec 09, 2015 08:25AM  
The Schwa Was Here: Internal Conflict 1 2 Dec 07, 2015 08:51AM  
Dialogue in The Schwa Was Here 1 1 Nov 30, 2015 08:53AM  
The Schwa Was Here: Dialogue 1 4 Nov 24, 2015 08:47AM  

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Award-winning author Neal Shusterman grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he began writing at an early age. After spending his junior and senior years of high school at the American School of Mexico City, Neal went on to UC Irvine, where he made his mark on the UCI swim team, and wrote a successful humor column. Within a year of graduating, he had his first book deal, and was hired to write a movi ...more

Other books in the series

Antsy Bonano (3 books)
  • Antsy Does Time (Antsy Bonano, #2)
  • Ship Out of Luck (Antsy Bonano, #3)
“Life is like a bad haircut. At first it looks awful, then you kind of get used to it, and before you know it, it it grows out and you gotta get another haircut that maybe won't be so bad, unless of course you keep going to SuperClips, where the hairstylists are so terrible they oughta be using safety scissors, and when they're done you look like your head got caught in a ceiling fan. So life goes on, good haircut, bad haircut, until finally you go bald, and it don't matter no more.
I told this wisdom to my mother, and she said I oughta put it in a book, then burn it. Some people just can't appreciate the profound.”
“What, are you totally psycho?" I shouted.
"Maybe I am!" he screamed back at me. "Maybe that's just what I am. Maybe I'm that quiet guy who suddenly goes nuts and then you find half the neighborhood in his freezer."
I gotta admit, that one stumped me for a second - but only for a second. "Which half?" I asked.
"Which half of the neighborhood? Could you make it the people on the other side of Avenue T, because I never really liked them anyway.”
More quotes…