Justin’s life is fairly normal. He has two really good friends, Jakob and Megan, who blend in with the rest of the student body of Edward Rucher High School. Everything changes when a new student joins the fray. Michael Martin prefers to be called Jinsen, his Buddha name. He is a small boy with a shaved head who constantly wears oversized T-shirts. Along with his bizarre looks and his inclination to beg for money during lunch, Jinsen has earned the nickname, “Buddha Boy.”
Justin feels sorry for Jinsen and gives him money during lunch. Soon Justin finds out that his relationship with Jinsen is not going to end there. Justin and Jinsen are paired together for a project for one of their classes. At first Justin is apprehensive, especially when Jinsen invites him over to his house to work on the project. Soon Justin realizes that Jinsen is not just a freaky kid from school.
Their friendship grows as the two boys share their appreciation for art, despite the disapproval of Justin’s other friends. The jocks and bullies at the school start to pick on Jinsen and his prized artwork. Justin finds himself standing up for Jinsen, even when he won’t do it himself. It’s difficult being different at a new school and Justin learns just how hard it really is from Jinsen when Jinsen finally reveals his secret past. Will Jinsen ever fit in with the rest of the students at Edward Rucher High School?
Kathe Koja spins a wonderful tale about fitting in and sticking to your principles. The twists and turns of the story will keep you enthralled throughout this quick read. The friendship between Jinsen and Justin keeps you rooting for them in the end. Buddha Boy is a great story for anyone who ever thought that they were the weird kid at school.