Kirkus and Booklist named Best Man one of the best books of 2016. Archer Magill begins this story with a wedding that forces him to hide under the porch with his best friend, Lynette. The novel ends with Archer landing the role of best man in another wedding. In between, the story follows Archer and Lynette through elementary school along with Archer’s three wholesome role models: grandpa, his dad, and Uncle Paul. When a new student teacher comes to town, Mr. McLeod, Archer’s world is thrown for a loop—but one that he embraces. Archer is charmingly oblivious for the entire novel, but his innocence makes his growing up all the more powerful. Although this coming of age story follows Archer from first to sixth grade, the content is best for fourth to sixth graders. Reading this book is like eating a bowl of warm, homemade soup with the fireplace blazing in the background. With truly down to earth, relatable characters, Peck successfully portrays small town life coming to terms with bullies, gay marriage, and being different. The sincere relationships are what make this story shine as adults teach children but children also guide and support the adults along the way. Although I loved The Best Man, I would not necessarily recommend the title for hard to engage readers as it is slow-paced with a less than action-packed plot. It lacks the juvenile humor and pull of James Patterson’s Middle School Series and takes a more mature, holistic approach on growing up.
The Best Man by Richard Peck (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016)