Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 25, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Award-winning author Wendelin Van Draanen gives us a brilliantly fresh and funny story about a boy learning to become the brave hero of his own life. Perfect for fans of Counting by 7s and The Fourteenth Goldfish.
My secret life is filled with psychic vampires, wheelchair zombies, chain-rattlin’ ghosts, and a one-eyed cat. But they’re nothing compared to my real-life stalker: a sixth-grade girl named Kandi Kain. . . .
Lincoln Jones is always working on the latest story he’s got going in his notebook. Those stories are his refuge. A place where the hero always prevails and the bad guy goes to jail. Real life is messy and complicated, so Lincoln sticks to fiction and keeps to himself. Which works fine until a nosy girl at his new school starts prying into his private business. She wants to know what he’s writing, where he disappears to after school, and why he never talks to anybody. . . .
The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a terrifically funny and poignant story about a boy finding the courage to get to know the real characters all around him—and to let them know him.
I’m always intrigued by books about kids who write stories. I started writing when I was a kid, so I usually feel a bit of kinship with the characters. I want to know why they write, what sort of stories they create.
In THE SECRET LIFE OF LINCOLN JONES, Lincoln’s notebooks of stories are the only sentimental thing he took with him when he and his mom escaped her abusive boyfriend. In their new home, Lincoln continues to write as a way to escape having to spend his afternoons at the nursing home where his mom works, as well as being in a new school.
I loved Lincoln’s voice. I often felt like he was sitting next to me, telling me every new adventure. I really felt for Lincoln and his mom; they have such a great bond. How many times do characters have neglectful or absent parents? So often it’s a trope. It was great to see how close Lincoln and his mom are, and also to see Lincoln realize just how hard his mom works to give him a better life. I’d say that’s a thing kids don’t often recognize — I know I didn’t — so hopefully seeing Lincoln get it will help other kids see it too.
I also liked Lincoln’s observations about the nursing home, Brookside. Sure, he’s not always respectful of the residents — he calls them “crazies” or “oldies” — but I didn’t mind that. I was around Lincoln’s age (11) when I first went to a nursing home to visit a relative, and let me tell you, it’s hard. I still remember it, and I went at 30 and feeling the same way. So, I hope Lincoln’s observations and moments of “ohhh, these are people too” help kids see it isn’t that scary.
I very much enjoyed THE SECRET LIFE OF LINCOLN JONES, and was sad to see the book end. Don’t worry — the book ends in a good spot and in a good way. But I was a little sad to say goodbye to Lincoln!
About the author:
Wendelin Van Draanen has written more than thirty novels for young readers and teens. She is the author of the 18-book Edgar-winning Sammy Keyes series, and wrote Flipped which was named a Top 100 Children’s Novel for the 21st Century by SLJ, and became a Warner Brothers feature film with Rob Reiner directing. Her novel The Running Dream was awarded ALA’s Schneider Family Award for its portrayal of the disability experience.
Van Draanen is also the author of two short chapter-book series. The Gecko & Sticky books, are fun read-alouds, perfect for reluctant readers, and the Shredderman books—featuring a boy who deals with a bully—received the Christopher Award for “affirming the highest values of the human spirit” and became a Nickelodeon made-for-TV movie.