Change, which is the central theme of 8th Grade Super Zero, is a constant and inevitable fact of life, and learning to deal with it is an essential part of growing up. In his eighth-grade year, Reggie McKnight becomes acutely aware of the passing nature of so many things he has, up to this point, taken for granted. Reggie's father has been laid off from work, and his close circle of friends is rapidly losing its cohesiveness. Donovan, who has always been part of his group, has chosen to seek out classmates who are more popular, and in trying to curry their favor, actively torments those, like Reggie, whose companionship he once valued. Reggie's buddy Joe C. is pursuing other interests, while Ruthie, his best friend since kindergarten, is turning into an attractive young lady, forcing him to see her in a different light. Reggie himself feels compelled to extend his horizons in the area of community service, and he also struggles to understand his faith, which once had seemed so simple, but now, as he grows older, seems fraught with mystery. Change, which is unavoidable, necessary, and arguably often more positive than not, can be quite bewildering in the inexorable manner in which it comes.
The ability to respond well to change is a measure of an individual's maturity. Abandonment, as a specific type of change, is a motif used throughout the narrative to illustrate this fact. Charlie, a five-year-old, has been abandoned repeatedly in his young life, and when George, his newest adult role-model, disappears, the child is unable to handle being left behind, and goes into crisis mode, desperate for Reggie's support. Reggie himself deals with abandonment issues with difficulty at first; he questions, then grieves, his growing separation from Joe C., essentially panics when George takes his belongings and walks away from the Olive Branch, and responds with anger and a sense of betrayal when his youth leader, Dave, announces that he is going away to take a teaching job in New Jersey. It is only when Reggie has achieved a...
(The entire section is 834 words.)