By James Howe
The Misfits is the story of 5 young students who are all outcasts in their school, and their struggles to fit in or find their niche. They form a political party to run for student council, in order to force their peers to accept diversity and each other’s differences, but they are denied by their teachers. Instead, they end up running as a No-Name Party based on the platform that nobody should ever be called names, because it is very hurtful.
Addie, Skeezie, Bobby and Joe struggle are called so many names by their peers; nerdy, geeky, greasy and many derogatory names referring to Joe’s sexual identity. While reading this book, I was quite appalled; I did not have this experience growing up, nor do I remember seeing it happen, although I am quite certain that it probably did happen to some of my peers. I want to give the other students the benefit of the doubt, and to argue that maybe they didn’t realize how hurtful they were being. I think this is a really great book for upper elementary students and even middle school students to read, because the characters are so easy to relate to; not everyone can see themselves as Addie, Skeezie, Bobby or Joe, but we probably have seen an Addie, Skeezie, Bobby or Joe at some point in our lives. And whether or not we will admit it, many of us have at least felt uncomfortable or left out or felt different at some point in time.
I’m sure that this novel is considered controversial, just because of all the touchy issues it addresses (mostly the homosexuality, but also bullying, emotional abuse, diversity, racism, discrimination, lack of teacher/adult support etc…), but given the chance I think I would definitely teach this novel. This book may make students feel uncomfortable, but in my mind, if they are feeling uncomfortable about it then they are really getting the point of it; they see how hurtful it is, and maybe they are relating to it and that is making them reflect on the novel. I don’t think that any student will be personally offended by this novel, which makes me feel that it is a book that students can learn from, and they may not be able to learn about these issues to this extent in another book, so that justifies teaching it in the classroom.
One theme that is so important and so apparent in this novel is that: “Different is okay, and we should accept people for who they are”. I think that especially considering the target audience of this novel, reinforcing that idea is so crucial. Given what has been happening lately in our society, bullying is such a problem, and the way to prevent it in the future is to teach our children and students just how hurtful it can be.