Saturday, March 24, 2018

Buttheads from Outer Space/Just Friends

Mahoney, Jerry. Buttheads from Outer Space
March 20th 2018 by Sky Pony Press
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Josh and his good friend Lloyd have a lot in common-- they both hate the Quentin, the kid in their class who is always making the cover of magazines, they both are interested in space aliens, and they both think their science teacher, Mr. Mudd, is a little too quirky. When the two go out for Josh's birthday with his parents to a Japanese restaurant, they are very surprised when they meet space aliens in the bathroom who take Josh's brand new iPhone! It's even worse when the aliens turn out to be... buttheads. That's just how these aliens are. They fart out of their faces and smile out of their butts. IAmWeenieBurger and DooDooFartMama decide to take up residence with Josh, but it's hard to hide aliens who have over a hundred ways to expel bodily waste, all of them messy. The aliens are also constantly getting into trouble, especially when they spend $900 on in-app purchases on Josh's phone. That's small stuff compared to their plan to take over the Earth and rename it FRRT, and Josh and Lloyd need to act quickly to avert disaster. It's hard, though, with Quentin trying to expose the aliens, Mr. Mudd acting weird, and Josh's parents being VERY angry about the amount of unexplained destructions going on at home! Can the boys find a way to thwart the aliens' plans so that Earth pets are safe from being eaten by Snertlings?

The friendship between Josh and Lloyd was one of the better ones I've read lately-- they have a lot of shared interests, and work well together under pressure. Lloyd gets along well with Josh's weird but supportive parents. I loved the notes that they put in Josh's lunch every day, and even thought that the way they handled the $900 app purchase was realistic, even though the plot was a lot more concerned with, you know, aliens exterminating the population! Quentin is useful as that annoying kid who always seems to do better than everyone else... and knows it.

For readers who want them, there are fart, butt, and bodily function jokes galore. There is even a prolonged broccoli flinging episode in the restaurant. Younger readers will find it especially interesting that the aliens farts can simulate a lot of different Earth smells, from McDonalds to cinnamon buns to less pleasant aromas.

If science fiction has taught me nothing else, it's that you NEVER give aliens the smaller corner to claim as their own, because they will just start to take over! We need to look no further than Faulkner's The Assault or Walden's Earthfall for proof of this! While this book has more in common with humorous speculative fiction like Emerson's Society for Alien Detection or Kloepfer's Into the Dorkness, the message is clear: be careful of aliens, especially if they eat your couch cushions and then barf them up repeatedly!

This reminded me strongly of Andy Griffiths' Zombie Butts from Uranus (2004), which actually circulated quite poorly in my library. Middle school is a tricky place, and while the average 11-12 year old may find butts hysterically funny, they don't necessarily want everyone else to know this. I think I will pass on purchasing, but elementary schools will definitely want to investigate this title.

35210308Sheldon, Dyan. Just Friends
February 13th 2018 by Candlewick Press
ARC from YA Books Central

Josh is into old movies, old music, and doesn't mind taking yoga classes with his best friend, Ramona. He also has a two friends who are equally off-the-beaten-path for high school students, Sal and Josh. When Jena Capistrano moves to town, Josh falls for her hard. He wishes that she would just speak to him one day, but through a series of circumstances, the two become "just friends". Jena opines that it's hard to be friends with a boy when they could make a move at any moment, but she knows that Josh would never do that. To complicate matters, Ramona has a bit of a crush on Josh, but they've known each other forever. Sal likes Ramona. Jena manages to fall into a crowd of popular kids, so starts dating a hunky football player, and every time the two fight, she goes running back to Josh, which only gives him hope. Will Josh be able to distance himself enough from Jena to move on with his life and relationships?

Sheldon's books are wonderful because they cover high school romances in ways that are still appropriate for middle school students to read about. This is a bit of a departure because the story is really Josh's. Even in middle school, there are a lot of boys who want romance books, but they really prefer them to be from the boy's point of view. Josh's feelings are so well described, and his insecurities and confusion about what to do will definitely ring true for boys just starting their romantic lives, no matter what their ages.

The characters in Just Friends are really what make the story. They are all very diverse, with unusual interests or quirky families, and none are stereotypical. While both Josh and Jena have a deceased parent, this is no dwelled upon. The adults in the story are supportive, and Josh even has a father figure in his Uncle Walt, who is helpful. Ramona's parents have a gift shop/new age story that is described in such an appealing way that I wouldn't mind going to Parsons Falls to shop there, and then maybe have some tea at Hava Java!

Romance books are always in demand, and the readers who enjoy them are usually voracious. I love the covers on Sheldon's newer titles-- they are very bright and appealing, and this one is very gender generic, which is excellent for the audience who should be reading it. This is a great book to hand to readers who have moved beyond Byars' Bingo Brown or Paulsen's Crush books and have enjoyed Korman's Son of the Mob, Finnegan's Not in the Script and Scott's Jingle Boy.

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