Book Reviews, Middle Grade Book Reviews

Turtle Boy by Evan Wolkenstein – ARC Review

My Rating ~ Five Stars

RELEASE DATE:  5 May 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Publisher: Usborne Publishing




Seventh grade is not going well for Will Levine. Kids at school bully him because of his funny-looking chin. His science teacher finds out about the turtles he spent his summer collecting from the marsh behind school and orders him to release them back into the wild. And for his bar mitzvah community service project, he has to go to the hospital to visit RJ, an older boy struggling with an incurable disease. Unfortunately, Will hates hospitals.

At first, the boys don’t get along, but then RJ shares his bucket list with Will. Among the things he wants to do: ride a roller coaster, go to a concert and a school dance, and swim in the ocean. To Will, happiness is hanging out in his room, alone, preferably with his turtles. But as RJ’s disease worsens, Will realizes he needs to tackle the bucket list on his new friend’s behalf before it’s too late. It seems like an impossible mission, way outside Will’s comfort zone. But as he completes each task with RJ’s guidance, Will learns that life is too short to live in a shell.





Thank you so much to Usborne Publishing for providing me with a copy of Turtle Boy, in exchange for an honest review!


Will is being constantly teased at school, due to his chin looking different to other people’s.  Even worse, the doctor has recommended he has surgery to fix it, but Will doesn’t do hospitals, after his father went in for routine surgery and never came out.

When his Rabbi requests Will spend time with a RJ, a boy in hospital with a serious illness, Will is determined to clock up the hours he needs to do for his bar mitzvah community service and get out as quickly as possible.  It doesn’t even seem like RJ really wants him there anyway.  But somewhere along the way, Will discovers RJ has a bucket list.  One he can’t complete on his own.  Everything on it seems like Will’s worst nightmares, but can he really say no to a boy who won’t live to experience them for himself?

This story was SO wonderful.  Heart-wrenching and relatable to anyone who has wanted to stay in their comfort zone, where things can’t get worse than they already are.  As Will faces his fears to attempt to fulfil RJ’s bucket list, he starts to admit that maybe coming out of your shell isn’t so bad after all.

Turtle Boy was one of those books that manages to toe the line between middle grade and YA.  It would be perfect for older middle grade children, but still isn’t too juvenile for YA and adult readers.  The whole story was adorable, while tackling hard hitting subjects, with fabulous and very human characters.

I’d highly recommend this one!




Photo from my Instagram account

2 thoughts on “Turtle Boy by Evan Wolkenstein – ARC Review”

  1. Oh, the bucket list trope is always a heart-breaker for me! I just know this book is going to make me cry (in a sad or happy way I’m not sure yet). I’m adding this to my TBR. Fab review!! – Jen

    Liked by 2 people

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