The Insiders

Written by Mark Oshiro

I really like this book because it is a story about three kids who are alone but a magical room connects them. They share this story with each other and help each other solve their problems. This book might make some people uncomfortable because it has LGBTQ+ in the story but mostly the book is about how we’re not ever really alone.

Reviewed by Kevin, Student, Eisenhower Jr. High
Review shared in June 2022
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 6-9

Because of his mother’s job change, Hector’s family has just moved from the Mission District in San Francisco to Orangevale; from one of the most colorful and unique neighborhoods in the country to a nondescript suburb;  from a school where all the energy and social life surrounds the theater productions, to a school without even a single drama class; from a group of best friends who accept him as he is (openly gay with a flashy fashion sense), to a clique-filled cafeteria where he ends up at the self-described “Table of Misfits” – all past victims of a bully named Mike. With Hector’s arrival, Mike now has a fresh target.  As Hector navigates his strange new social situation, he starts to hide parts of himself, until he ultimately finds himself literally hiding in a janitor’s closet to avoid harassment from Mike.  The closet isn’t just a closet, though – it becomes a room filled with whatever Hector needs or wants at the time – a place to take a nap and recharge during his school day. And then other kids who need a place to escape and recharge find their way into the closet as well…

This is a fun and empathy-building story of middle school students learning to be their true selves, exploring their interests, finding friendships, and building community in a harsh social environment. One detail that sets it apart is the inclusion of the Hogwarts-ish “Room of Requirement” concept, but ported into a contemporary American middle school. In this case the “Dark Arts” which must be defended against are bullying, homophobia, and arbitrary social conformity. Recommended for fans of middle school stories like Wonder, Merci Suarez, and the books of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead. Oshiro’s writing and character development are not yet quite as distinguished as the work of those Newbery winners, occasionally relying on stereotypes, but this is nonetheless a solid contemporary middle school novel from a fresh perspective.

Reviewed by Joshua Whiting, Media Specialist, Granite Educational Technology Department
Review shared in June 2022
Rating: ★★★★✩ (4 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 5-9

The Insiders
Written by Mark Oshiro
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
375 pages
Release Date: September 21, 2021
ISBN: 9780063008106 (hardcover) / 9780063008113 (paperback)
A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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