People tell Martin that he’s stupid. At sixteen, Martin can barely read and his grades are terrible. He listens in class and does his homework, but his dad insists that Martin is a slacker who would rather goof off with a video camera than do “real” work. This is partly true, because movie-making is the one thing that makes sense to Martin. Through the lens of a camera, he can focus and communicate in ways that are impossible with words.
When he meets Stick, Martin enters the dangerous world of parkour, a non-competitive sport that emphasizes efficient movement using nothing more than the body and its momentum. Martin offers to produce a movie of Stick’s group and enters it into Youth Central’s movie-making contest. He is certain that if he wins the contest, he can finally prove to his dad and to the world that he isn’t stupid – just different.
Short-listed for the 2008 CBC Literary Award, children’s playwright and YA author, Kim Firmston, shines with Stupid, a gripping story about control and the destructive decisions people make when they lose it. The parallel between parkour and dyslexia is a nice juxtaposition that is particularly apt in a book written for reluctant readersWhile the novel starts strong, it closes a bit too neatly. It is a stretch to believe Martin could change his behavior and study habits so quickly, especially since he would be hindered by his own poor concentration and low literacy levels. Despite its rather saccharine ending, however, Stupid crackles with energy, dragging readers along on a violent, muscles flexed, white-knuckled ride through midnight landscapes and abandoned industrial sites, into the frustration and fragmentation of dyslexia.