On 9/17/10 Five students met to discuss this contemporary teen problem/comedy book. I was really pleased to hear what they had to share. The first item up for discussion was the cover. Several students said that until I pressured them to they didn’t want to choose this title because they viewed the cover as elementary and too silly. I believe they had a point. The garden gnome behind the wheel of a car did seem a little funny, especially since in the story he is decapitated and under it. However, we all really liked the book.
A worry had been at the beginning when Alex, who is portrayed as a good kid and a good student, rebels against his parents who are separating that this would be just another problem teen book. So it was interesting to the students when Alex evolved into a caring, intelligent, insightful young man. After he gets drunk, steals his mom’s car, and vandalizes the neighbor’s lawn that is. The students found it refreshing that the growth occurred because of new relationships, sharing music, and a developing sense of responsibility and not through harsh judgment as is usual in many teen novels.
They found Alex frustrating but quite believable and likable. The introduction of a tad bit of romance didn’t hurt the story either as cute pixie-like Laurie added some dimension. They liked her character and knew she was Alex’s girlfriend before he figured it out. Also, they liked the humor and cantankerous Sol Lewis the aging ex-jazz guitarist to whom Alex is assigned for community service.
I knew the vocabulary and plot was a bit simple for high school sophisticated readers but for the beginning of the year and especially for the freshmen it was still a good choice.