From the beloved author of Because of Mr. Terupt and its sequels comes The Perfect Score, a new middle-grade school story with a very special cast of unforgettable characters who discover that getting the perfect score—both on the test and in life—is perhaps not so perfect after all.
No one likes or wants to take the statewide assessment tests. Not the students in Mrs. Woods’s sixth-grade class. Not even Mrs. Woods. It’s not as if the kids don’t already have things to worry about. . . .
Under pressure to be the top gymnast her mother expects her to be, RANDI starts to wonder what her destiny truly holds. Football-crazy GAVIN has always struggled with reading and feels as dumb as his high school–dropout father. TREVOR acts tough and mean, but as much as he hates school, he hates being home even more. SCOTT’s got a big brain and an even bigger heart, especially when it comes to his grandfather, but his good intentions always backfire in spectacular ways. NATALIE, know-it-all and aspiring lawyer, loves to follow the rules—only this year, she’s about to break them all.
The whole school is in a frenzy with test time approaching—kids, teachers, the administration. Everyone is anxious. When one of the kids has a big idea for acing the tests, they’re all in. But things get ugly before they get better, and in the end, the real meaning of the perfect score surprises them all.
As he did with younger students in his Mr. Terupt books, Buyea takes readers into a sixth-grade classroom to follow five memorable students: Natalie, a rule-following future lawyer; Scott, a kid with brains, heart, and big ideas (that always seem to go south); Trevor, who acts tougher than he is; Gavin, a football enthusiast who struggles in school; and Randi, a state-ranked gymnast with loads of pressure at home. After their expected teacher moves away, they wind up with the elderly Mrs. Woods, whose no-nonsense style dates back to when their parents were in school, but whose love of books and underlying compassion wins them over. As the pressure to perform during state testing mounts, the five students reluctantly band together with a risky plan to ace them. Buyea gives his narrators clear voices and diverse backstories. The plot, however, plods along, pushed forward mostly by amusing mishaps (perpetrated by the irrepressible Scott) until the testing debacle late in the book. The students' stories are compelling, and Buyea confidently mixes humor and heart, but the story lacks tension until the final chapters. Ages 9 12.