Book Review: Also Known as Rowan Pohi

Also Known as Rowan Pohi by Ralph Fletcher. 2011. 9780547572086. Gr. 7-10.

It all started at IHOP.  Bobby and his friends are hanging out at the International House of Pancakes one afternoon in the summer before they start high school.  The restaurant is full of kids from the fancy Whitestone Academy prep school with their designer jeans, new backpacks, and  summer camps. Bobby and his friends only dream about designer jeans and summer camps.  Not to mention, they don’t have the grades to get into a school like Whitestone.

They can imagine Whitestone material, and they don’t imagine it is anything like them.  The boys start filling out a Whitestone application with the made-up name Rowan Pohi—did you notice that Pohi is IHOP backwards?—and give him all the necessary qualifications to get accepted.  When they finish the application, Rowan looks like an exemplary student. He is in the Honor society, plays sports, and volunteers at a soup kitchen.  He’s perfect, but, of course, he isn’t real.  Rowan Pohi is just a joke made up on a bored afternoon.

When Bobby mails the application, he tries not to think about how much better Whitestone is than his own high school.   He imagines he might fit in better there.  He says,

“At Riverview, kids called you geekster or nerdling if you dared show any interest in history or literature, so I had to hide that part of myself.  Kids at Whitestone really wanted to learn, from what I’d heard, so there was nothing wrong with paying attention or speaking up in class.”

Not only that, but Bobby feels like he could use a fresh start.  His name has become synonymous in town with a terrible family incident that resulted in his father, whose name is also Bob Steele, getting arrested.  He can’t go even go to the corner store without worrying that people will recognize his name and look at him differently.  So when Bobby gets Rowan’s acceptance letter in the mail, he takes a chance and shows up at orientation.  Just to see what it’s like.  But then he just wants to see what classes are like, so he shows up at Whitestone instead of Riverview on the first day of school.  He’s not sure how long he can pull it off, but he can’t let an opportunity like this pass by.

Also Known as Rowan Pohi is a great choice for reluctant readers.  Bobby’s first person narration keeps the plot moving with plenty of funny moments as Bobby pretends to be Rowan but also some poignant scenes with Bobby’s family.  While the plot may not be terribly realistic, Bobby does come across as real.  His family issues and his identity questions are as real as his desire to escape and be someone new.

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