Title: The Reinvention of Edison Thomas
Author: Jacqueline Houtman
Publisher: Front Street
May Contain Spoilers
Science geek Eddy Thomas can invent useful devices to do anything, except solve his bully problem. Eddy Thomas can read a college physics book, but he can’t read the emotions on the faces of his classmates at Drayton Middle School. He can spend hours tinkering with an invention, but he can’t stand more than a few minutes in a noisy crowd, like the crowd at the science fair, which Eddy fails to win. When the local school crossing guard is laid off, Eddy is haunted by thoughts of the potentially disastrous consequences and invents a traffic-calming device, using parts he has scavenged from discarded machines. Eddy also discovers new friends, who appreciate his abilities and respect his unique view of the world. By trusting his real friends, Eddy uses his talents to help others and rethinks his purely mechanical definition of success.
I liked protagonist Eddy Thomas so much! This is another good book with a not so conventional lead character. Though it’s never labeled in the book, he is autistic, and navigating the confusing world of socialization is a struggle for him. He is incredibly intelligent, but he loses patience with himself when he can’t even tell if a classmate is bullying him. Loud noises leave him on edge and new situations upset him. His greatest comfort comes from his inventions, which he painstakingly constructs from items collected from dumpsters.
I felt sorry for Eddy because the adults at school didn’t understand him at all. His teachers and the principal made me angry at times. Eddy is having trouble socializing with his peers, and instead of dealing with his issues compassionately, all they wanted to do was punish him. His father didn’t always have the patience needed to help him work through his problems, either. It’s geeky classmate Justin who goes out of his way to understand Eddy, and even introduces him to new friends. It takes a lot of effort on Eddy’s part to accept their friendship, and when he finally does, it shows just how much he has grown during the book.
The Reinvention of Edison Thomas is a low-key read, and the slow pacing might not be for everyone. The focus here is on Eddy and his struggle to work his way through each day. He is lost without his carefully compiled lists of things he needs to do, and he often misinterprets social cues. It’s when he finds the courage to step outside of his comfort zone that Eddy, and this book, really shine.
Review copy provided by publisher