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Free Lunch

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  5,105 ratings  ·  1,038 reviews
Instead of giving him lunch money, Rex’s mom has signed him up for free meals. As a poor kid in a wealthy school district, better-off kids crowd impatiently behind him as he tries to explain to the cashier that he’s on the free meal program. The lunch lady is hard of hearing, so Rex has to shout.
Free Lunch is the story of Rex’s efforts to navigate his first semester of six
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Norton Young Readers
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Cathy I did not. While I agree with you that the way Ogle's mother treated him was hard to read, it represents a reality that so many of our students, (I am…moreI did not. While I agree with you that the way Ogle's mother treated him was hard to read, it represents a reality that so many of our students, (I am in education) face. The book serves as a reminder that building relationships with our students is a vital component to their success and well-being.(less)
Brienne It depends. Sometimes they love their kid, but can’t think straight.

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Average rating 4.37  · 
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 ·  5,105 ratings  ·  1,038 reviews

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Mar 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Some minor spoilers...

Rex Ogle's Free Lunch is the true story of his life entering 6th grade. He looks forward to school but has many problems at home, mainly because he comes from a poor family who can barely afford to feed themselves. His mother can't find a job, and his dad is pretty much nonexistent. Perhaps what's worse is that his mother is bitter and treats him poorly.

In truth, Rex has a lot to be angry about; He's often hungry, must fend for himself and care for his little brother witho
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I was five, my family went to dinner at a sit-down restaurant (a rare thing for us) and my parents made an announcement. My mom was pregnant. My sisters and I were going to have a baby brother. I could've learned I was going to get a new Barbie each day for the rest of my life and I wouldn't have been as excited. This was the best news in the world, right? My oldest sister was not so happy. In that cutting way teen girls have, her immediate response was a sneer: "Does that mean we're going ...more
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is exceptionally well written; it is funny, thought-provoking, and completely heartbreaking. Why then did I give it 2 stars...while contemplating giving it 1? It gets an extra point for great writing. Otherwise, the sheer fact that at the end the author does not talk about if your parents are abusing you that is NOT okay. They beat him, abandoned him and his brother for days alone (the first time when he was 9 and his brother was 2) with no phone and not enough food. THIS IS ABUSE AND NOT O ...more
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-4
A powerful memoir where the author relived his first semester of sixth grade and the struggles and feelings of shame he experienced while living with food insecurity, emotional and physical abuse, and the realities of a system where children, by lottery of birth, find themselves constantly hungry, angry, shamed, treated differently, while having to sit in class next to children who have everything. What struck me especially about this was the inescapability of Rex’s situation. No magic solutions ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Anybody who knows me personally will understand that when I say 'this book understands and specifically addresses what Stephen King means to poor kids with excellent reading comprehension", that means I will stan it for life.

Other than that tho, Rex Ogle is a hero for really sharing what it felt like for him in 6th grade. His anger, his sadness, his shame, and his strength in the face of what seemed like a totally uncaring world. Rex is angry with God, and you can't really blame him.

I am espec
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult-kids, arc
I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book deals with Rex Ogle's childhood (specifically the first half of 6th grade - the start of middle school) and his shame of being on the free lunch program. In the author notes at the end, he mentions that he wanted to write this book because he doesn't remember seeing books like this growing up, how alone he felt because he didn't know that other people were dealing with the same problems, carrying the same shame. There's a stigma abo
Laura Gardner
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Book talking this nonfiction book is going to be SO EASY. I am eager to see student reactions to this honest portrayal of a child growing up impoverished.
The most powerful part of FREE LUNCH is the way Ogle shows how poverty makes everything worse and how difficult it is to dig out of debt. The abuse, bullying, hunger and humiliation Ogle endures is intense, but a realistic portrayal of the difficulties many children in America face. .
“Sometimes, I hate my mom so much. Like when she’s hitti
Edward Sullivan
In this emotionally visceral, brutally honest memoir, Rex Ogle tells the story of his first semester in sixth grade. He and his baby brother often went hungry, wore secondhand clothes, and were short of school supplies. His mother is cruel and abusive, and his stepfather violently abusive to his mother. Humiliated, Rex is desperate to keep secret from his schoolmates that he is on the free lunch program and living in government subsidized housing. A harsh, painfully realistic look at poverty thr ...more
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It seems that there's been an increase in the middle-grade memoir market but maybe that's just me. Rex Ogle's no-holds-barred book about poverty, hunger, child abuse, and domestic violence in America is a gripping read. If every child doesn't read it—every teacher and politician should. ...more
2020 Read Harder Challenge: A YA nonfiction book. Wow, this was ROUGH to read during pandemic times especially, and so thought-provoking for me (someone so privileged who has never dealt with problems of poverty or abuse). I wish I'd gotten it read in time to discuss at book club.

Rex became an author; I find myself still thinking about Ford and wondering how he is.

Memorable quotes:

"And don't say something stupid like 'love is free.' 'Cause it's not. It costs money to take care of the people you
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
I don't think NOW was the right time to read this book. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate Ogle's writing about this particular period in his life, but reading it while all of our students are at home...on COVID-19 lock down, increases my anxiety.

This is what I mean. For example, in the chapter called "Free Reading" Ogle writes, "I never want to be at home. Aside from Ford, there's nothing good there. I'd rather be at school. Here, I don't think about all the bad stuff with Mom and Sam." and then
PVLD Reads
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: juvenile-nonfic
I loved this book! Ogle writes an unflinching memoir about the first half of his sixth grade year. At first I was reading from my adult viewpoint but as I continued to read I was easily taken into the mind of this sixth grader. I say that to point out how, at first, it seemed that the characterizations were exaggerated but then they became more real and believable---and relatable. Ogle’s observations, emotions, and the way he dealt with his situation are heartbreaking and at times uplifting. Cer ...more
Draining and brutal. In a year of sad stories this felt more readable, more genuine, and more hopeful than most of the fiction I've come across. I think because it is Ogle own story, even though he was victimized by his family's poverty, both physically and psychologically, he never rolled-over and gave-in or basked in the unfairness of it all. Sometimes he raged at it. Ultimately he saw beyond it and was able to look outside of just how it effected him. I'm not sure I would hand this to a child ...more
Debbie Tanner
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a bigraphical story about a boy growing up in poverty. The story tells about being hungry, wearing second hand clothes and wishing,wishing ,wishing for the kinds of things other kids take for granted. It also talks about being really angry sometimes about circumstances beyond his control. I really liked the story and the sharing of Rex's experience, but the ending left me a little cold. ...more
Jon Garcia
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
E.L. Winter
The prose is clunky and a slog to get through, and there is nothing redeeming around the corner to make the journey worthwhile. Prospective readers should be aware that there is a fair amount of racist and homophobic slurs, and constant child abuse that is never addressed. It ends with the deeply troubling messaging that things are going to get better because his abusive parents now have jobs, and he just needs to be a better person himself and forgive them because things aren’t “black and white ...more
This was a tough read. Knowing that it is a memoir, and that all of the events that happened are from the author's own life, make it a struggle to read because it is so sad and depressing. Plus, as is the case with memoirs and non-fiction, there isn't always a nicely wrapped up, "happily ever after" type of ending. While this does end in a more positive way than I originally anticipated, it still didn't feel completely resolved. But, that's life. Messy and complicated.

Recommended for larger coll
Ms. Yingling
Aug 13, 2019 rated it liked it
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

In this fiction-style memoir, we get the real story of the author's sixth grade year. His family (which includes mother, younger half brother, and the brother's father) struggles financially. Rex is mortified by being on free lunch, which is hard to hide from his friends when the lunch lady makes him give his name and identify that he is in the program every day. He also doesn't like the thrift store clothing he wears, or the neighborhood in which his family lives. He wi
Mar 14, 2021 rated it really liked it

Rex Ogle delivers an honest, raw depiction of his own childhood and establishes how hard it is to break out of poverty and abuse.

I thought the writing was excellent and really made me want more. Rex doesn't shy away from telling it like it is and this book is not for the weak of heart. It will make you angry, uncomfortable and break your heart to see what situations he was put in. It reminded me of reading A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer.

I would've given this 5 stars because it was t
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you Rex Ogle for writing so many people's story. Though my life wasn't quite as awful, I was glad to grow up and get away from it and raise my own family better. I feel for what he experienced both from my own experience and from what I witnessed. Grown ups were not trust worthy or good in my young self's opinion. Kids were vulnerable enough to be picked on as they were on hand. Parents believed other adults, especially teachers and anyone perceived as "betters" or authority figures, kids ...more
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
Netgalley provided me a DRC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This was a tough read. It's a true account, and a brutally honest look at poverty, domestic abuse, and what happens when kids have to take care of themselves.

Here Ogle recounts his 6th grade year--a year full of turmoil. His mom and boyfriend are struggling to find jobs, and their frustration and anger usually turns into physical abuse--both towards each other and towards Rex. He's in charge of caring for his toddler brot
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to W.W. Norton for the ARC at BEA 2019!

This book is Rex Ogle's real story of growing up in poverty and trying to survive in a school and social environment where he feels the constant pressure of food insecurity, poverty, lack of stable housing, and watches his parents buckle and abuse each other and him due to the unending stress of being impoverished. A constant point in the book is Ogle's shame when he has to repeatedly tell the lunch counter cashiers that he is on the Free Lunch progr
Jeanie Phillips
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it
I have complicated feelings about this book. Rex Ogle is so honest and vulnerable in the telling of his early life: the poverty, the abuse, the neglect, the trauma. My heart broke for him, and my educator self saw his experience in my students - and the way that it can be misunderstood. AND it wrapped up in such a neat and tidy way- it felt simplified and false.
MaryBrigid Turner
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful, thought provoking glimpse into what it means to be poor in America.
Lel Budge
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: blog, anne-cater
This is the true story of Rex Ogle’s life as a young boy living in a low income family.

Rex spends a lot of his time caring for his younger brother, Ford, and trying to protect him from the violence in this broken, desperate family.

Starting 6th grade, his mother tells him he’s on the free lunch programme and his first thought is of shame. He tries his best to hide this from his friends at every lunch time.

At home he is often hungry, his mother’s boyfriend beats her, she in turn beats Rex, leaving
Nov 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the most powerful books I have ever read. A painful, but extremely realistic, portrayal of what it's like to grow up in poverty in the United States. This story is very well written, and as much as it is heartbreaking, its message of hope is something I was profoundly moved by. ...more
Hard to read this memoir of Ogle's youth dealing with poverty and abusive parents, but he writes clearly and without sensationalizing his past. Managing to still sound like a kid, or to distill the way kids talk and think, he builds his readers' trust and keeps them reading. ...more
Oct 22, 2021 rated it liked it
An often painful, emotion filled journey through young Rex's life. Crisp descriptions and narrative make the world as seen through his eyes come achingly to life, and I felt proud of him for his strength and grit in keeping on trying.
2021 Popsugar Reading Challenge: The book on your TBR list with the ugliest cover.
Heartbreaking at times, this memoir tell's of Ogle's childhood, being poor, having to participate in the free lunch program and having an abusive household. But this book was not totally without hope. I recommend it. ...more
Dinah Moore
"I don't get why folks act like being poor is a disease, like it's wrong or something. It's hard to be poor."

Rex Ogle, omfg. Thank you for sharing so kids know they aren't alone .
I live in South Carolina's "Corridor of Shame" so I know so many IRL kids who can relate.

This book covers everything from urban housing to domestic violence. Child abuse, neglect, a mom with mental illness, and just the overall burden of the being poor--coupled with hunger had me literally wailing for Rex + many that I
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YA Buddy Readers'...: Free Lunch by Rex Ogle -- Starting February 8th 2021 19 13 Feb 18, 2021 07:45AM  

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“I don't know why, but I don't trust the word free anymore. Lunch here is supposed to be free, but it feels like it costs me a lot.” 5 likes
“No child should feel alone. Or ashamed. Or worthless. They need to know that their circumstances are not their fault.” 4 likes
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