The Saturday Boy

Common Sense Media says

Tough but warmhearted story of boy who misses dad at war.





What parents need to know

Educational value

The Saturday Boy may inspire some readers to learn more about American involvement in the Middle East, or about military families.

Positive messages

Derek's heart is in the right place. He's an optimist despite his sadness. He sees that ugly behavior sometimes masks unhappiness, but understands that doesn't make it OK. Physical absence, he learns, is very different from emotional absence. At one point, a young friend gives him assurance that everyone is right: It will get better. 

Positive role models

Derek often feels the world is against him, but he appreciates the many adults who treat him kindly, at school and at home. He owns his feelings, even when they're ugly, and tries to do right for others -- even those who aren't so nice to him. His teacher and principal reach out to him with empathy and respect, and his patient mother and aunt are strongly supportive.


Derek gets in a vicious fight with his on-off friend, and fantasizes about exacting revenge. He even hides a dead shrew in the boy's sandwich, only to find it hidden in his own desk later. Derek fantasizes about piloting a helicopter with his dad and helping him in battle. He likes to play superhero games and loves zombies.

Not applicable

A generous helping of small insults and coarse middle-school language, including "badass," "butt," "buttholes," "buttloads," "crap," "dammit," "damn," "dork," "for Christ's sake," "fudge bag," "hell," "jerk," "lame-ass," "suck," and "sucker."


References to the bands Oingo Boingo and the Jam.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Just a brief reference to characters on a TV show smoking.


Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Saturday Boy is about an 11-year-old named Derek whose father, an Army pilot, has been stationed in Afghanistan for years. They rarely see each other, but his father tries to stay close with regular letters home. Derek is prone to emotional outbursts when provoked -- yelling, vandalizing a wall with insults -- and is well acquainted with the school principal. Derek gets into a violent fight and fantasizes about exacting revenge on a bully. There's some swearing ("damn," "hell," "for Christ's sake") and coarse middle school language and insults ( "badass," "buttholes," "crap," "lame-ass," and more). A significant character dies.

Parents say

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Kids say

What's the story?

Derek Lamb is trying to be good, but trouble keeps finding him. Usually it comes in the form of his ex-best friend, who now taunts him mercilessly -- yet it's Derek who keeps getting in trouble. Derek finds comfort in the many letters from his father, an Army pilot who has spent years in Afghanistan. The letters help, as do the love and patience of his mother and aunt, and even the small kindnesses from other adults in his life. But more than anything, Derek wants his father back home.


Is it any good?


THE SATURDAY BOY is a deeply felt story of a boy unmoored. Powerful emotions are at play, but author David Fleming uses restraint to great advantage. He steers clear of maudlin scenes and lets understated prose capture the view of a boy on the verge of growing up. The lonely, insecure narrator is on the immature side of 11, enjoying superhero and ninja play while his peers start acting the part of middle-schoolers. Derek has a reputation for being a difficult kid at school (his classmates, he learns, think he's weird), but he's assured by people who love him that he's a good kid who'll turn out just fine. 

The background -- with Derek's father stationed in Afghanistan -- is very much of the times, but the story has timeless heft. It's a good choice for any child struggling with changing friendships, the absence of loved ones, or just the everyday drama of growing up.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Derek's knack for getting in trouble. His mother tells him that just because something isn't his fault doesn't mean he's not at fault. What does she mean?

  • Do you know anyone with a parent away from home in the Army, Navy, or Marines? Does The Saturday Boy help you understand how that might feel? 

  • Derek loves watching TV and gets very upset when his mother revokes his TV privileges. TV helps him relax and escape. What do you think of his TV habits? Do you ever use TV to escape?


Book details

Author:David Fleming
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Viking Juvenile
Publication date:June 13, 2013
Number of pages:240
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14
Read aloud:10 - 14
Read alone:10 - 14
Available on:Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook

This review of The Saturday Boy was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 10 years old January 21, 2014

great book

I think this a a very good book. It does have some swearing in it, but otherwise I loved the book. The boy has a tough life. It is very emotional and heartwarming.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing


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