Zack Delacruz is unnoticed at his middle school—and that’s just the way he likes it. But a school assembly, a typhoon of spit, and an uncharacteristic moment of bravery are all it takes to change everything. Suddenly Zack is in charge of the class fundraiser. Worse, his partner is the school’s biggest bully! If they don’t sell all the chocolate bars, there will be no dance for the sixth grade. Zack never wanted to be a hero, but with his classmates’ hopes on the line, can he save the day?
Anderson's debut children's book stars sixth-grader Zack, who has perfected the art of being invisible in school until he surprises himself by standing up to the class bully, Jos , also known as El Pollo Loco. Zack also finds himself forced to work with Jos on a fund-raising campaign: if the sixth graders sell enough candy bars, they will be allowed to attend the middle-school dance for the first time. Zack, who is also dealing with his parents' recent divorce, is a sympathetic narrator, and Anderson spiritedly renders the voices and personalities of preteens, many of Mexican descent, in a blue-collar section of San Antonio, Tex. It's somewhat hard to believe, however, that many sixth-grade boys would be motivated by the prospect of a dance, so when the fund-raising takes an unexpected twist, the sense of urgency is not especially credible. And annoying as El Pollo Loco is, he's basically harmless, which strips the bullying issue of potency. While less than compelling, the story does trace Zack's maturing and his class's bonding to a pleasantly satisfying finish. Ages 9 13.