Superficially, it’s be easy to dismiss "Milo" as a "Wimpy Kid" knock-off. Both books feature first-person narration by a protagonist who is down on their luck when it comes to social skills and who use cartoons to illustrate their points and tell their story.
To do that would be to sell "Milo" short in a lot of ways.
Milo has just moved into the fifth house he’s ever lived and is starting a new school. The move came after Milo’s mother passed away and his family has been in a "fog" ever since. On his first day at the local convenience store, Milo sees the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen, Summer, and instantly falls head over heels in love with her. Milo becomes obsessed with getting Summer to notice him so she’ll fall in love with him as well.
But it seems like his strange neighbor, Hilary has developed a crush on Milo. And he’s got a strange neighbor and a new friend to contend with as well.
All that, while trying to pass math and deal with the loss of his mother.
"Milo" is a story that is far more grounded in an emotional reality than most of the Wimpy Kid books. Whereas we can laugh at Greg for his absurd self-absorbed nature and his staunch refusal to admit he’s wrong, Milo comes across as a more human person. Milo and his family are clearly still hurting over the death of his mother and each person reacts differently, mostly by burying their feelings and refusing to talk about it. Milo’s falling for Summer and his lack of ability to pass math are direct consequences of his mother’s death. For a novel aimed at young adults, Silberberg doesn’t always spell out everything, but instead paints in just enough of the picture to allow readers to understand why Milo is trying so hard or not trying as hard as he should. (An example is his math teacher shaves his head and Milo has a hard time connecting with him or being willing to learn from him because of the nature of his mother’s illness (she had cancer and goes bald from the treatment.))
I’ll admit there were a few times in the story that I got a lump in my throat. The emotions here are raw and real. But the journey is one worth taking with Milo and his friends. The story even has some unexpected moments that work extremely well.
This may be a book that if given to young readers will open up some conversations and discussions.