The Daredevils by Rob Buyea

The Daredevils by Rob Buyea. Delacorte Press, 2022. 9780593376140

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? It’s the summer before middle school, and twins Waylon and Loretta have some projects in mind, each unbeknownst to the other.  Loretta has always been Waylon’s protector, and plans to spend her summer toughening him up.  Waylon’s project is to become more independent from Loretta.  In between helping their father with household chores and attending summer camp, they spend time together in the woods near their house, where they encounter Louie, a boy their age who is homeschooled by his eccentric-seeming mother.  The trio soon unearths a mysterious cigar box full of odd 1990s artifacts, as well as a note that encourages whoever reads it to perform some kind of sacrifice, and also a rite of passage.  Waylon is sure this message is from the Forest Spirits, and he feels strongly that they should try to complete these rituals to appease them so the twins begin sneaking out at night to meet Louie and prepare for the tasks.  Each of them comes up with very meaningful sacrifices and challenging rites of passage, all while trying to avoid parental suspicion and continuing with their summer projects.    

Waylon and Loretta alternate narrating this coming-of-age story, and their voices are unique and authentic. Mr. Terupt fans are well-familiar with Rob Buyea’s talent for staying in character as he switches the narration.  Waylon is the more intellectual and outdoorsy twin, and his language is somewhat formal and full of clever wordplay; Loretta is a little rougher around the edges, and bases a lot of her ideas on movie lore, and that comes across in her narration as well.  While the siblings are both trying to become less reliant on one another, it’s clear that their strong bond will prevail over anything middle school can throw at them.  Several subplots are woven through the main narrative: the twins develop empathy for Louie as they try to unravel his back story; Waylon has his first crush and Loretta is jealous; and they contend with two bullies (one, a classmate whom Loretta beat up in defense of Waylon; the other, their cruel P.E. teacher who was their father’s high school rival).  All of these threads tie together in a rather tidy conclusion, but readers will be left wondering about a few things and hoping for a middle school sequel.  As Loretta hints frequently, “more on that later.”

Anything you did not like about the book?  I would have appreciated an occasional chapter narrated by Louie.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Upper elementary fans of the author’s other books and those by Gordon Korman, Andrew Clements, et al. 

Who should buy this book? Public, elementary and middle school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Fiction

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: September 26, 2022

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