Mom and Dad were in their room with the door shut. Again. Cautiously, I pressed my ear against the wooden frame. Hakuna Matata, no Discovery Channel-like sounds could be heard. Only two mammals speaking so quickly and intensely that their voices were nearly inaudible.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Jay Baker’s world is starting to crumble on all fronts. He has to face his mortal-enemy-since-the-seventh-grade in a Freshman Class Presidential debate. He only decided to run for class office to impress cheerleader Cameo Appearance Parnell, his best friend and unrequited crush, but she’s still dating the jocks who’ve been bullying Jay for years. His parents’ 19-year marriage is clearly not doing well; he just found out his mom has been sleeping with Some Dude Named Keith. It’s all enough to push a smart-mouthed, IBS-prone kid to the breaking point. Jay can try to cover up his worries with a fast-paced monologue of quips, puns, and pop-culture references, but, at some point, he’s going to have to figure out how to just be himself.
With a quick-paced narrative filled with snarky, coarse humor, this should be a hit with middle-school boys. Jay’s problems are instantly recognizable: he wants to impress a girl or two, he wants football-player Mike Hibbard to quit bullying him, and he wants his parents to get their act together. Jay and his older sister, Abby, make quite the sarcastic comedy team, leavening the mood whenever it seems in danger of turning serious.
Overall, this is a decent contemporary realistic novel with plenty of boy-appeal, appropriate for the younger range of YA. Jay’s heavy reliance on pop culture references will probably endear him to some teen readers, although they may date the book as pop culture moves ever onward. The narrative veers perilously close to “too clever” from time to time; maybe Jay is trying to impress the reader just as he tries to impress Cameo and Caroline. Clark’s debut novel won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but readers looking for light realism (no big issues here, just the everyday problems just about every teenager faces) served up with a heavy dose of snark will find it hits the spot.
On shelves January 31, 2012.
Middle school boys seem to be the ideal audience for this light contemporary realism that’s heavy on the snark.
e-ARC via NetGalley, provided by the publisher by request.