by Mary Amato
The answer seems simple enough until you begin thinking your way through the 151 pages. I wonder what you’d do.
What does the birth of a worm and the initiation of a sixth grader have in common? Well in The Word Eater they begin in the same moment, neither go well and both set in motion actions that will change the world.
Reba – president of MPOOE (Most Powerful Ones on Earth) seems to rule sixth grade at Cleveland Park Middle School along with Randy. They have divided the class into MPOOE members or SLUGs. Lerner has just moved to this school, this town, this state and she is not too impressed with what she finds. She doesn’t want to be a MPOOE, but she doesn’t want to be a SLUG either – she just wants to be left alone. With Reba around that doesn’t seem to be an option.
Meanwhile in a mud circle at the edge of the playground a worm emerges from its casing. The other worms of the clan sense its arrival and circle up for the naming waiting eagerly to feel the vibration. The worm is teeny – almost nothing at all, but it is able to move on little skinch to earn the name Fip. Once named, Fip is carried on to the eating ceremony, but Fip doesn’t seem to be able to stomach the taste of dirt. Fip’s clan always eats dirt and because he doesn’t he is left on his own. He discovers he has a taste for sweet and crunchy, crisp and crinkly words. And what he eats disappears.
No one understands this at first, but soon Lerner catches on. She realizes that this worm, no bigger than a grain of rice has amazing power. She is the one who can use that power. Perhaps she will be able to undo all her recent moving misery. But while as Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power, “ he also said, “Appetite for too much power caused the angels to fall.” Lerner is faced with a dilemma – how can she best use this power? Should she? Can she changes things and make them better? Everything, she discovers, is connected. What would he do with the power to change the world?