Review by Sarah Oh, first time novelists, I love you. Every season, I’m inundated with massive amounts of sequels and follow-ups and companion novels to books I read last year, and while I know I’m going to utterly love and adore many of these forays back into worlds I’m familiar with, there’s nothing quite like a voice you haven’t heard before. Rob Buyea’s first novel, Because of Mr. Terupt, is a classic school story, something in the tradition of James Howe and Gordon Korman and Andrew Clements, and yet it has this unshakable kind of optimism about it that seems to channel the joy Mr. Buyea must have felt when he found out his novel was going to be published. It’s a sort of cheerfulness that lingers, and it’s so sincere that the reader can’t help but feel it too. Because of Mr. Terupt, is, not surprisingly, about Mr. Terupt, who is a brand new teacher, fresh out of school himself. Seven of Mr. Terupt’s students are our narrators, and each chapter displays the point of view character’s name. It takes a few cycles of switching between the kids’ povs to really get their voices down, but this method of storytelling is really vital to the novel’s plot. The kids, Jessica, Alexia, Peter, Luke, Danielle, Anna, and Jeffrey, each come with their own set of fears and desires coming into fifth grade. Some of them love Mr. Terupt from day one, and others take longer to warm to his exuberant, slightly offbeat methods. As the year progresses, each of our seven narrators faces serious issues of their own; one is bullied about her weight, one is collapsing under the weight of grief, one is the new girl who can’t fit in, one is the girl who makes it her mission to control her peers through cruelty. Mr. Terupt seeks to bring out the best in his students, and they work toward a ‘free day,’ during which the kids will do whatever they choose. When the goal is met and the free day arrives, the class decides to go outside and play in the snow, and during their outdoor adventure, disaster strikes, and Mr. Terupt ends up in the hospital, clinging to life. I’m not going to talk about the ending of the book for obvious spoiler reasons. What I will say is that there is a reason books like this get written, why films like Dead Poets Society and Stand and Deliver get made, and why Will Schuester will show up every week on Glee for at least the next two years: nearly everyone has a teacher in his or her past that changed them forever. We spend so many of our formative years in school, and we spend that time with dozens of educators. For many of us, the lucky ones, there is a teacher that really rocked our world, who elevated the act of learning to something more. This book is a love song to those teachers, and even more, it’s a love song to the kids who are in school right now, whether or not they’ve met their own personal Mr. Terupts yet.