Friday, June 22, 2012

12 Things to do before you crash and burn by James Proimos

After a number of picture books, James Proimos tries his hand at a young adult novel. I've looked at several of his previous works, Todd's TV, Paulie Pastrami, and the ever-popular Swim Swim, so I thought I'd pick this up.

I was first impressed by the length. Not many young adult authors can limit themselves to 121 pages, especially in this day of endless door-stopper series. And yet, so many middle schoolers (high schoolers just don't read) refuse to read these lengthy tomes. So, I was inclined to be pleased.

And pleased I was. This wasn't my usual kind of story; Hercules Martino has been sent to spend two weeks with his bachelor Uncle Anthony, the most boring man alive. Hercules dad has just died. Everyone thinks he was wonderful - Herc thinks otherwise. In just a week, with Uncle Anthony's boredom-preventing list, he will meet Strange Beautiful Unattainable Woman, get chased by dogs, eat at a homeless shelter, read Winnie-the-Pooh, shovel horse manure (or at least that was the original idea), and start to come to terms with his father's death and his own life.

This story is funnier than it sounds and more serious than you expect. If fits a lot into a little. Half the story is left untold, but the book tells more story than you would think possible.

[Yes, I am listening to Terry Pratchett at the moment]

Teens looking for funny, heartfelt, or "I have a report due tomorrow" will scoop this slim volume off the shelf and they won't be disappointed.

Verdict: Proimos' young adult debut is unconventional, interesting, well-written, and unique. There's a few mild instances of bad language and an oblique reference to sex which is later specified. I'd recommend this to older teens and/or reluctant readers.

ISBN: 9781596435957; Published November 2011 by Roaring Brook Press; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

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