Totally Joe

Totally Joe

(Part of The Misfits)
For Ages: 9 - 13
  • 13
"Everybody says you and Colin were kissing."

"What? That's ridiculous!"

"For heaven's sake, Joe, if you and Colin want to kiss, you have every right to."

"We did not kiss," I told her.

Addie shrugged. "Whatever."

What was it with my friends?

From the creator of The Misfits, the book that inspired NATIONAL NO NAME-CALLING WEEK, comes the story of Joe Bunch....
  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780689839580 | 
  • April 2007 | 
  • Grades 4 - 8 | 
  • Lexile ® 910L
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Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to
Totally Joe
By James Howe


Assigned to write his alphabiography—a chronicle of his life with chapters headed from A to Z—seventh-grader Joe Bunch is at first uncertain. This English assignment is going to be boring. What if he tells the truth and someone besides his teacher reads it? And the part about ending each chapter with a “life lesson” seems totally lame. But as Joe’s chapters build from “A” for his best friend Addie to “F” for family to “T” for turning thirteen and beyond, he finds his entries becoming increasingly honest and thoughtful. He writes about his crush on Colin Briggs, about being gay, and about a world where acceptance and ridicule can be confusingly intertwined.

The unique personality at the center of Howe’s lively character study is captured through the novel’s unusual format: an “alphabiography” peppered with pages of transcripted dialogue, instant messages and chapter-ending “life lessons.”  But perhaps what is most striking about Totally Joe is not the stand-out hair, apparel and attitude of its flamboyant protagonist but the poignant similarities between his experience and that of all young teens as they strive to be true to themselves in a junior high world where following the crowd—and not one’s own heart—often seems to be the easiest and least pa see more

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About the Author

James Howe
Photograph by John Maggiotto

James Howe

James Howe is the author of more than ninety books for young readers, including the modern classic Bunnicula and its highly popular sequels. In 2001, Howe published The Misfits, which was the inspiration for the national movement known as No Name-Calling Week (, an event observed by thousands of middle and elementary schools annually. There are three companion novels to The MisfitsTotally Joe (2005), Addie on the Inside (2011), and Also Known as Elvis (2014). Howe’s many other books for children from preschool through teens frequently deal with the acceptance of difference and being true to oneself. Visit him online at