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If middle school were a race, Joseph Friedman wouldn’t even be in last place—he’d be on the sidelines. With an overactive mind and phobias of everything from hard-boiled eggs to gargoyles, he struggles to understand his classes, let alone his fellow classmates. So he spends most of his time avoiding school bully Charlie Kastner and hiding out in the Resource Room, a safe place for misfit kids like him.

But then, on the first day of seventh grade, two important things happen. First, his Resource Room teacher encourages (i.e., practically forces) him to join the school track team, and second, he meets Heather, a crazy-fast runner who isn’t going to be pushed around by Charlie Kastner or anybody else.

With a new friend and a new team, Joseph finds himself off the sidelines and in the race (quite literally) for the first time. Is he a good runner? Well, no, he’s terrible. But the funny thing about running is, once you're in the race, anything can happen.

Here are some of the lovely things other authors have said about Sidetracked:

There are times in Sidetracked when you will cheer because a kid has found deep truth. There are times when you will cheer because a kid has found real friendship. There are times when you will cheer because a kid has discovered that in this broken and hard world, he can still grow. But you will gladly cheer loudest when this kid embraces what seems to be a cliche—‘Do your best’—and shows it to be a ringing call to nothing less than Triumph.
— Gary D. Schmidt, Printz Honor Winner and Two-Time Newbery Honor Winner
For anyone who’s ever struggled to find their place in the socially complex world of middle school, Joseph Friedman is the quirky, awkward protagonist you’ve been waiting for! Heart warming and funny, SIDETRACKED is the book we all wish we had read in 7th grade.
— Gitty Daneshvari, Author of School of Fear and The League of Unexceptional Children
A new girl comes to town—full of skills and secrets—and before he knows it, the school bully is black and blue, and suspended.

Better yet, she enables a boy named Joseph Friedman to run for his life, on the seventh-grade cross country team. Diana Harmon Asher tells an entertaining story about a boy picking his way through the potholes and pitfalls of puberty, with a little help from his friends.
— Richard Peck, Newbery Medal Winner
Oh, how you will love this seventh grader! Joseph is a terrific boy who experiences the world differently from most. He notes: “LD stands for ‘learning differences.’ It used to stand for ‘learning disabilities,’ before they decided to make us sound a little less tragic.”

But before you take out your tissues for a good cry, know that Sidetracked is marvelously unpredictable. Joseph is bullied, ridden with anxiety, and terrorized by everything from loud noises to dust bunnies. But pressured into joining the middle school’s new cross-country team, he finds…

Just read it! Diana Harmon Asher has written a witty, observant, and sensitive novel for kids, as well as a delight for the adults in their lives.
— Susan Isaacs, New York Times Bestselling Author