Holiday House, 2009. Hardcover. 250 pp.
R.D. is almost 16 years old, and is still in the 8th grade. Every time something goes wrong at school, the Vice Principal assumes it was his fault, so R.D. automatically gets blamed. He’s been suspended so many times for things he really hasn’t done, but doesn’t care. It’s nice not to be at school.
His mother is in jail, and he never met his father so R.D. lives with his grandmother and her boyfriend Earl. When she abandons them for another boyfriend and moves out of state, life is still cool until Earl suddenly dies. R.D. doesn’t want to wind up in a home, so he pretends Earl is still alive and tries to figure out how to live on his own, get money for food, cook, clean, go to school, do his homework, keep away nosy people, and stay one step ahead of the law finding out Earl is dead.
Lynch shows humor in the trials and tribulations faced by a young boy trying to figure out how to do things as simple as laundry and cleaning, yet draws readers into the sadness of R.D.’s loneliness and having too much responsibility laid on his shoulders.
“Messed Up” is a great “breaking stereotypes” look into the life of a Mexican American kid who happens to live in the Hood, is surrounded by the Hood, yet doesn’t let himself become part of the Hood. R.D. shows great judgement and ingenuity as he tries to take a bad situation and make it better.
I’d recommend it for Middle Schoolers in grades 7-8, as well as reluctant readers.