Reggie McKnight, the likable protagonist of 8th Grade Super Zero, is an imaginative young man who is focused on finding substance and identity in his life. Disillusioned by how "fake" so many things about his alternative school social life and relationships seem to be, he strives to bring authenticity to his situation by refusing to be a victim and standing up for what he believes is important and right. Reggie's father is unemployed and his mother is working long hours to support the family, and, as is typical with siblings of their age, he is not on the best of terms with his older sister. Despite these difficulties, however, Reggie's family is loving and cohesive, and, with their support and that of his two friends Ruthie and Joe C., Reggie achieves tremendous growth through the course of the narrative. Reggie begins the story as a joke among his peers because of his onstage gaffe at the start of the school year, and spends his time vicariously acting the part of a superhero through his creation Night Man, while trying to keep a low profile to avoid his schoolmates' harassment in his everyday life. As he grows in maturity and in his Christian faith, Reggie learns to accept the changes going on around and within him, and finds the courage to leave childhood, as symbolized by Night Man, behind, and take his place in the real world, as represented by the Olive Branch. Because he has the humility to admit his own shortcomings, the courage to do the "right thing," and the faith that even his smallest efforts are important in the inscrutable plans of a God who is ultimately just, Reggie emerges at the end of the novel as a young man of strong character who will "make a difference."
Ruthie Robertson has been Reggie McKnight's best friend since kindergarten and shares his Jamaican heritage. She is the feisty and intelligent daughter of political activists whose social consciousness has been passed down to the next generation. Ruthie is the voice of practicality and reason in Reggie's life, and in the often turbulent dynamics of junior high school interactions, she always has his back. Passionate and outspoken, Ruthie is eminently confident but is also able to admit she is wrong, as she shows when she concedes...
(The entire section is 917 words.)