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Free Lunch

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  446 ratings  ·  141 reviews
Free Lunch is the story of Rex Ogle’s first semester in sixth grade. Rex and his baby brother often went hungry, wore secondhand clothes, and were short of school supplies, and Rex was on his school’s free lunch program. Grounded in the immediacy of physical hunger and the humiliation of having to announce it every day in the school lunch line, Rex’s is a compelling story ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Norton Young Readers
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Average rating 4.46  · 
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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
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
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 ...more
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
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.
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
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
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: anne-cater, blog
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
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
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 ...more
Corinne Anderson
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a great novel. It puts childhood poverty into a realistic perspective from the child suffering. Photographs and statistics only so much as the media bombards the populace with thousands of social issues at a time. To sit and read one person’s story, as a child, is a totally different experience. I encourage young readers to pick up this book, and teachers to consider adding this book to their curriculum. It provides, 1) the realization that you are not alone if you are a child in ...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
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.
Linda Williams Jackson

This book was an emotional and life-changing read for me. Should be required reading for middle school kids and their parents.
Every teacher needs to read this and so many of my high school students will get behind this book whether it's a window, mirror, or sliding glass door because it's got all of the heart and the substance of so many conversations to have with students-- trauma, abuse, parenthood versus childhood, student lunches, poverty, prejudice, housing, just to name a few.

Ogle in a very short amount of time absolutely kicks readers in the gut by being straightforward and as he mentions in the author's note,
Jon Garcia
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. This is a true story of Rex Ogle's 6th grade year. It is a memoir about what it was like to start middle school as a boy growing up in poverty in an abusive household in America in the 1980s. The author was able to capture the complexities of emotion he felt being trapped in his situation. What is most striking about this story is its honesty in acknowledging the blend of anger, guilt, hatred, empathy, and love Rex felt for his mother, who is abusive and seems to be struggling ...more
Sandy Brehl
I began reading this as a round one panelist in the middle grade nonfiction category for Cybils Awards for 2019. I was not far into it before I had to break my personal rules to turn to back matter, since it reads so much like an impressive fictional novel. The author's name is the same as that of the first-person, present tense narrator, but even so, I doubted that a person's life could possibly unfold, and be retold, with such a potent and dramatic narrative.
Immediately following the
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ariel-s-arcs
It’s not an easy book to read, but it is a extremely important one. I couldn’t put FREE LUNCH down, and I’m not sure if it was because I was so engrossed in the story, or if I just wanted to see the light at the end of the darkness. Perhaps both. FREE LUNCH, by Rex Ogle, is a deeply moving and heart wrenching memoir of a 12 year old boy trying to survive. Trying to survive with a physically abusive mother and her physically abusive boyfriend. Trying to survive when there is barely food to eat. ...more
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thank you to @netgalley and for the advance Kindle copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

/5. Whew, this one was tough to read. The author tells the story of his sixth grade year, when his family hit rock bottom financially and he qualified for free lunch at school. He was humiliated as he told the lunch cashiers to look his name up in the free lunch binder. Meanwhile, his mother spins even more out of control than before, is beaten by her boyfriend, and refuses help from Rex’s
Lizanne Johnson
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This narrative nonfiction book is challenging and disturbing. To know the experiences that Rex Ogke lived through is a tribute to his ability to survive. I couldn't help thinking about the students in my Title I middle school and the traumatic experiences that they are living through. Ogle's coming of age ended hopefully. The important message about poverty in our country and its effect on our youth makes me want to know more about how we can fight this battle and win.
Thanks to NetGalley and
Katrina Eddy
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Free Lunch is a memoir about growing up in poverty. Rex is embarrassed that he has to get free lunch. His family has been struggling for a long time and he has seen the stress and despair that accompanies that. He has also had to make sacrifices and he doesn’t have the same opportunity that his classmates have. The stress brings out the worst in his parents and their anger causes them to be violent towards each other, sometimes even Rex.

You really felt for the characters. This story was written
TheRealAndee Oehm
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a mom, this was difficult to stomach, but important to see. These realities are often ignored or dismissed. Rex has a great voice that definitely captures the tribulations of middle school paired with poverty.
Abby Johnson
What a powerful and sobering book, especially reading this in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas when I am super aware of the privilege that my family and I enjoy. Rex Ogle's piercing memoir of the beginning of his sixth grade year when his family was food unstable and he endured physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his mother and stepfather is a hard read, but an important one. There are kids who need this book, who need to know that they're not alone, even if they don't ...more
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ms-appropriate
I really liked this book, and part of me wishes it was cataloged in fiction so more students will discover it. It reads like a novel, but I had to keep reminding myself that the author was writing about his own life. Sixth grade is difficult enough, but it must've been hell for Rex.
It reminded me of The Benefits of Being an Octopus, but even more raw and real. If there was one thing I didn't like, it was how quickly the story wrapped up when Rex's mom got a job. It was as if suddenly all their
Whew. This is quite a book. I have to remember that I'm not the intended audience for a YA book (no matter how well-written) and try to not let it damper my experience. I couldn't quite do that here, but I would absolutely recommend this book to the people you know in middle school. Brutal and necessary.
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Instead of giving him lunch money, Rex’s mom has signed him up for free meals. As a poor kid in a better off school district, the other kids wait impatiently behind him as he tries to explain to the cashier that he’s on the free meal program. She’s hard of hearing so he has to shout it out.

Free Lunch is the story of Rex’s efforts to navigate his first semester of sixth grade – who to sit with, not being able to join the football team, Halloween in a handmade costume, classmates and a teacher who
Lisa Welch
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This one is a heartbreaker....but it does end with a message of hope. A very current look at poverty in the US. Highly recommend!
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Simply put, a traumatic childhood doesn’t mean all beatings all the time. I laughed Wright along with the story, but also cried. Such and emotional ride.
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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.” 1 likes
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