This is an excellent sixth grade book. It's a little bit slow, for the first twenty pages, which is why I abandoned it the first time I attempted to read it. However, I'm very glad I gave it a second chance. The pace really picks up and the story and characters are quite well done.
Paul learns many things in this story. He learns what really caused the damage to his eyes when he was young. He learns there are many more ways to live than in the gated, pricey communities he's always taken for granted. He learns to sit on the sidelines, to be a loyal friend, and to stand up for himself. He learns a lot about what kind of a person he wants to be, but here's the thing you've got to trust me on: these lessons are all very tightly woven in the fabric of a wonderful, believable story. There's no explicit moralizing or talking down to the reader. The narration is just Paul, writing in his journal, about a series of experiences that change him.
The plot includes race and class tensions, sibling hatred, less than perfect parents, a couple horrible deaths, and several great soccer games. The resolution is satisfying and the setting (Florida citrus tree lands) is like a subtle but strong character. Lucky for me, Washington has a class set of this book, which I'm looking forward to reading with my sixth graders next year.