Book Review: Probably Still Nick Swansen by Virginia Euwer Wolff

Probably Still Nick Swansen by Virginia Euwer Wolff

[His mom] drove away, Nick watched the people arriving for the prom and looked for Shana. She wasn’t there yet. It was okay, he’d wait.
They could make fun of you for being Special Ed. and letting your mother bring you to the prom, but there was lots of Special Ed. kids who never went to a prom in their whole lives.
Nick waited and watched girls in long dresses and guys in tuxedos go in the big doors.
He waited. Shana would get there soon, she’d wear the pink wrist corsage, she’d wear a lavender dress. It was getting cold. She should be here any minute.
Read an excerpt.

Nick and Shana are going to prom. He’s never heard of someone from Special Ed going to prom. Shana’s going to wear a lavender dress. And he’s going to give her a corsage. . . .But when Shana doesn’t show up, Nick has to deal with all his emotions and thoughts that don’t make sense.

What made me take this book off the shelves of the library and bring it home to read was the idea of reading a book about a different type of character–a boy who is in special ed. We’ve experienced high school ourselves and then in teen books we’ve experienced it again and again through the eyes of multiple different people. But how often do we get to experience high school this way? Not often. I never had anyway.

There’s not a whole lot to the plot of this book. Nick asks Shana, who has moved up from special ed, to prom, some things go wrong, and the reader gets to see inside Nick’s head for a while. The book is beautifully written–one of those books that you just know should win awards. (And it did, back in the 80s when it was written.) Even though it’s in third person, the style is as if Nick is the one telling the story. Words he doesn’t know how to spell are misspelled. Grammar is sometimes a little off. Sentences are constructed a little differently. It’s fabulous.

Like I said, there’s not much the plot. But this book isn’t much about the story; it’s more about the experience. I think this could be a great book for opening up someone’s eyes about people who are “different.” A teen reading this might see that someone in special ed or who is a little slower than most still experience things about the same way.

*news about probably still nick swansen*

Fun facts: This was Virginia Euwer Wolff’s first book. It won both the International Reading Association Award and the PEN-West Book Award.

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Read the book & want to talk about your favorite scenes? Add your comments on my Book Discussion page.

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About Karen Krueger

I write for teens when I'm not chasing after two cute kids. I love to sing and eat cereal (though not at the same time), and I most certainly am not a vampire because I'm addicted to sunshine.
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