Summary: One Kid’s Trash
One Kid’s Trash is Jamie Sumner’s THIRD middle grade book. It’s about a boy who’s always been small for his age, thanks to being born premature. Hugo’s family has moved from Denver to a smaller skiing town in Colorado after his father quit his job as a computer engineer to become a ski instructor. For Hugo, this is a terrible development as he’s only just found his people in his former city and now has to start from scratch. Thankfully, his cousin Vijay is somewhat popular and brings Hugo into his friend group — the kids who run the school newsletter. But when the kids in his school realize that Hugo can tell a lot about a person from their trash, Hugo finds new popularity that threatens to upturn his new friendships.
I always enjoy Sumner’s storytelling and this was no different. Hugo is a really small kid for his age — girls in his school can pat him on the head easily. His psychologist mom gives him a Pediasure to help him gain weight. So readers can feel his frustration with that and the trepidation he feels about starting a new school, where he is bullied just as he worried he would be.
I also loved the interesting dynamic between Hugo and Vijay — the half-Indian cousin who’s smarter, more popular and socially adept than he is. While Hugo appreciates the social support, his feelings get complicated by his own desire to be accepted and at least half as popular as his cousin. They have a great group of friend with the twins, Micah, and Em who leads the newsletter team. I also enjoy stories where kids have an interest in writing, so it was fun to see the newsletter issues come together.
Hugo practices garbology, which is a social science that examines people and modern culture using the items they throw away. I found it so fascinating the way he learned more about each character using their garbage!
Finally, I couldn’t review this book without discussing the bullying that Hugo faces as well as the familial challenges at home. His dad is basically having a mid-life crisis, uproots the entire family, and then works crazy hours so much that he barely sees the family in this new city. Meanwhile Hugo’s mom is trying to start a new practice and eventually begins using their home as an office. There’s something incredibly honest and realistic in the way this story comes to life — and I loved that.
Overall: One Kid’s Trash
One Kid’s Trash is a funny, poignant, and engaging story about adjusting to new circumstances and finding and appreciating your people. Featuring a relatable protagonist and complex friend and family dynamics, this new middle grade book makes for an enjoyable read. At under 250 pages long, it’s also a short read that readers can blow through quickly. Bonus points for snow sports lovers as this is set in a skiing town in Colorado!