My 8th grade son rarely reads anymore. This week, he read five books because I was on a hunt for funny books for boys and kept flinging things at him. Food for thought: When students get books that interest them, they read MORE!!
8th grade boys are over goofy. A little is okay, but what they secretly want are romance books. Hence the success of titles such as Son of the Mob, 24 Girls in 7 Days, and The Girlfriend Project. There's a fine line to walk in these-- no sex, but innuendo is something they adore; no drinking unless there are bad consequences; scatological language is an 8th grade boys' whole world, but I draw the line at the f-bomb. This is why I was leery of Andy Behrens' book, since his his book Sex Drive (originally published as All the Way) stepped over several lines.
Duncan Boone can't shake his infatuation with Carly. He has written 19 songs to her, which he tries to get his friends Jessie and Stew to play in their rock band, Fat Barbie. Carly barely acknowledges his existence, being too busy with her social projects, most notably protesting the use of lab animals. When Duncan gets bruised-- by a shelf in his garage falling on him-- Carly turns protective and solicitous. But can Duncan keep her interest? He does, by hiring bully Freddie to harass him in exchange for letting Freddie's sister Syd into the band. Duncan gets closer to Carly by helping with her lab animal group and offering to play at a rally, but is Carly the girl he really wants?
This was delightful. My son sat and laughed through most of this. I enjoyed it because the obsessions, machinations, and emotions all rang true for me. The writing is clever in the way of Sonnenblick and Selzer, and thankfully, while we dance along the line of inappropriateness, we don't really go over. Perfect for my 8th grade boys. Thank you, Mr. Behrens!
My son also enjoyed The Schwa Was Here. He's a HUGE Shusterman fan, but told me that the first three chapters were hard to get into, but the book was a page turner after that. Antsy makes friends with a boy named Calvin Schwa, who has a tendency to go unnoticed by everyone. The two take a bet that the Schwa can sneak into Old Man Crawley's house and steal a dog bowl, but the two get caught and Crawley makes them walk his dog. Late, Crawley enlists Antsy to befriend his blind granddaughter, Lexie. Both boys have crushes on the girl and fight over who walks the dog and who talks to Lexie. Meanwhile, the Schwa starts to feel even more invisible, and a mystery arises concerning the disappearance of his mother.
The yellow cover is an improvement on the earlier one (see above- cartoons= too goofy), and this book balances introspection with action nicely. It's a little quirky, and I probably wouldn't have read the whole book if my son hadn't insisted, but he was right-- after the boys get involved with Crawley, it is a captivating if quirky read. Would have gotten my vote for the Newbery in 2004 over The Tale of Desperaux.
Two titles that didn't fly-- Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo was a little too goofy, as well as confusing, and McKissack's Shooting Star, which would have been a great addition to my football and steriods collection, had far too many f bombs. I was willing to let the one uttered by the distraught coach go, but they continued. Sigh.