There were no surprises as The Mailbox wound up -- well, no overall, cosmic surprises. Sweet Gabe finds a new father in his English teacher and learns some things about his Uncle Vernon that make him feel proud.
Uncle Vernon was a Vietnam vet and the last bit of the book turns out to be a bit of a lesson on war and brotherhood that I found a) completely appropriate for young readers who might possibly make the leap to the war that is occupying their lives and b) heavy-handed and sentimental. So, this will never be a favorite book of mine, but I think it does have possibilities for my Lunch Bunch book discussion group of 4th and 5th graders.
While I think some 6th and 7th graders might enjoy this book, it seems better suited to younger readers. Gabe is so innocent and his living-alone adventure preposterous enough that I think most teens would scoff. I think also that narrator Landrum's reading style makes the point-of-view characters he's portraying young-ish. Landrum's got a wide-eyed (well at least it sounds that way!) enthusiasm as he describes our young hero's world view.
I did ask someone else on the committee to listen to this, fearing that I was having trouble distinguishing this title from Alabama Moon. Since there's no expectation that a listener would encounter the two books so close together, it doesn't seem quite fair to have my opinion of the second so clearly influenced by the first.