This was one of the choices for my son's 7th grade summer reading, so we both read it. The book is about a boy name Toby who lives in Antler, TX, which is a small town where "nothing ever happens." The story takes place during the summer of 1971. His best friend Cal's older brother is currently serving in the Vietnam war and has been writing each week, so we learn that war is nothing like how they used to play soldiers in the lawn.
The biggest thing to happen in Antler is the day Zachary Beaver's trailer pulls into town. He is supposedly the world's fattest boy and is put on display like a circus act. People can pay $2 to see him in person. This would have been a novelty, but Zachary's legal guardian leaves town without him and nobody knows when he will return for Zachary. The town sort of adopts him and the boys soon realize they have more in common with Zachary than they ever imagined.
Another theme in the story is abandonment. Not only was Zachary abandoned, but Toby's mother leaves for Nashville to try out in a singing competition. Toby eventually realizes his mother's dreams of becoming a country music superstar were not being fulfilled in Antler and she wasn't happy here. He begins to wonder when or if she is really coming back.
This was a pretty fast read with a number of thought provoking topics for young readers. My son and I both remained engaged throughout the book and enjoyed the characters and their stories. I would definitely recommend it for middle school children. There was a lot more substance to this story than your typical middle grade book and it allowed my son to read something a bit different from his typical reading selections.