King, Amy Sarig. Me and Marvin Gardens
January 31st 2017 by Arthur A. Levine Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Obe lives in a previously rural bit of Pennsylvania that is quickly becoming suburban. Worst of all, the land on which the new houses are going up used to belong to his family, before his great grandfather lost it to pay drinking debts. His family is doing okay, but Obe is fighting with former best friend Tommy as well as dealing with recurring nosebleeds that resultant from Tommy punching him in the nose. His one solace is going to the creek behind his hose and picking up trash there. Once he finds an odd, slimy, hoglike animal that eats plastic, things start to get a little weird. He names the animal Marvin Gardens (his father is obsessed with Monopoly), and knows he has to keep him hidden from the authorities, as well as the neighborhood kids who might hurt him. At the same time, he feels that Marvin's ability to survive on plastic might be environmentally useful, so eventually tells a trusted teacher. Add to this the fact that Marvin's scat can eat through tennis shoes and decks, and there is a time factor that comes into play.
Strengths: I adored the setting-- how many children have had to deal with seeing land that's been in their family for generations given over to McMansions? I liked that the family was supportive but struggling a lot with working long hours. The middle grade friendship between Obe and Tommy is also spot on. The little insights into what life was like 100 years ago was an interesting inclusion.
Weaknesses: I was really loving this until Marvin showed up. I know that there needed to be some other form of conflict, but this was definitely a fantasy novel once we brought in the mutant animal that ate plastic. Just got kind of weird.
What I really think: I might have to buy it, just because of the parts I liked.
The other reason I might have to buy it. Pretty sure this is an aerial shot of my grandparents' farm in Enon Valley, Pa. As you can see, they had to deal with a lot of encroachments. A bit surprised it hasn't been built up, but that might be because of the turnpike right there.