In Stanley Will Probably Be Fine, the new novel by Sally J. Pla, Stanley is fine, as long as he’s nestled in the reassuring quiet of his room with a stack of comics. Alas, he’s forced to leave his cocoon for the chaos of middle school, where his best friend, Joon, is distancing himself in favor of more adventurous friends. School is often too much sensory stimulation for Stanley, leading to humiliating breakdowns.
Then Stanley and Joon learn of a Trivia Quest to be held in downtown San Diego. Participants solve a series of clues using their comics expertise, and the winners earn VIP passes to Comics Fest, a dream come true for Stanley and Joon. Stanley, with his encyclopedic knowledge of comics, should be an ace partner—but only if he can brave the noise and crowds of the downtown scene.
Stanley is an engaging narrator, ruefully aware of the ways his personal challenges thwart his successful navigation of middle school. The Trivia Quest allows him to make tentative steps toward adapting, even as he would desperately love to hide in his room. Stanley’s friendship with a homeschooled girl, who is dealing with her own poignant circumstances, allows him to develop a kinship with another outlier.
Comics fans and young readers who experience the world more intensely than their peers will love this one.
Diane Colson is the Library Director at City College in Gainesville, Florida.