If you’re like me and always scroll to the bottom of a book review to see what “ranking” it received before going back through and reading the review itself, let me warn you that this one is a bit deceptive. Don’t give up on this book just because I didn’t love it. Touched by Kim Firmston is the kind of book I would buy for my classroom in a heartbeat even though on a personal level I didn’t love it. You see, as a middle school teacher, I often ran into 8th graders who were reluctant to pick up a book. For a variety of reasons, reading wasn’t fun for them- it was work and no one wants more work. This book is written for those who may shy away from books because their reading level doesn’t match their interest level when it comes to many of the options on the library shelves.
Touched is about Ethan, a high school student with amazing computer skills. When Ethan feels like his dad isn’t paying him enough attention, he decides to use his electronic aptitude to make his dad sit up and notice him. Ethan hacks into his school’s central computer system, installing a virus that he is sure will catch his father’s attention, since his dad works in electronic security. But it doesn’t because his father is too preoccupied with Ethan’s step-sister’s meltdown.
Haley is a few years younger than Ethan, and they used to be close, but lately she’s been rebelling, focusing all the family’s attention on her. As she focuses inwards, Ethan pushes harder to be noticed, but in trying to impress his dad he starts sabotaging his relationships at school. With things spiraling out of control at school, Ethan’s home life matches it negative step by negative step.
Then, accusations of molestation emerge. Ethan is left without a support network of friends and wondering who to trust.
This book isn’t going to win any prizes for complex storylines and writing, but that is partially the point. For a student who struggles with reading, this book is perfect! It has an engaging plot, filled with computers and robots and family drama, but is written in a straightforward way, with lower-level vocabulary, that makes it accessible to upper grade readers with lower grade reading levels. Plus, at just over 100 pages long, it isn’t intimidating to pick up. (Many of my middle schoolers, including the good readers, didn’t judge books by the covers so much as they judged them by the width of their spines!)
Computer hacking and robot building are not things that I often sit around contemplating, so my personal rating of this book is going to be much lower than if I were giving you a teacher recommendation. For my classroom, I would buy multiple copies of this book and hand them out like candy to my reluctant readers-both boys and girls, as it fits both teenage audiences well! But, because this is blog is my personal review of books and not one based on me wearing my “teacher hat,” Kim Firmston’s Touched earns: