Friday, June 19, 2020

Guy Friday- The Day I Was Erased and Smooth

Thompson, Lisa. The Day I Was Erased.
June 2nd 2020 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Maxwell is a very unpleasant boy, but part of that is because his life has some deeply unpleasant moments. His parents fight all of the time, and he has a tenuous relationship with his best friend. The best thing in his life is his dog, Monster, whom he saved from being run over. When Max gets in trouble at school again, he ends up at the house of a elderly neighbor, Reg. Reg is always a calming influence, offering tea and cookies even though he doesn't always remember Max right away. While telling Reg about his horrible day, Max wishes he was never born... and his wish comes true. Max stumbles through a nightmare landscape where his parents are divorced and his mother is dating, his father has never left the office job that drove him into a deep depression, his best friend Charlie is struggling in school, his sister has picked up all of his juvenile delinquent ways, his school has never been renovated, and Monster is not around because Max was not there to save him. Max tells Reg that he is staying with him because his parents are away, and Max tries desperately to connect with the people in his life who no longer know him so that he can improve their lives in this alternate reality. He finally realizes what made him be erased, and with the help of his sister and Charlie, tries to return to his real life.
Strengths: I very much enjoyed this author's The Light Jar, and Max's plight is an interesting one. I loved that he was able to stay with Reg without much explanation, and the way he approaches the mystery is well done. His concerns about people in his life are nicely specific, and I particularly liked his concern for the way his sister turns out without him. The artifacts responsible for the disappearance are nicely tied into the story as well, and Reg's history adds a nice finish.
Weaknesses: Max is NOT a pleasant character at the beginning of the book, and this was another instance of British parenting being shown in a very negative light! I worry about British parents; just reading Jacqueline Wilson makes me want to call Children's Services on the whole country!
What I really think: This reminded me of another British author's books-- Ross Welford's The 1,000 Year Old Boy and What Not to Do if You Turn Invisible. I've been able to sell those to students, and this has an even more intriguing premise, so I will definitely purchase.

I'm kind of a sucker for the illustrations on UK covers, but I think Scholastic made a good call on the update for the US consumer.

The following is definitely a high school book, due to content and language, but I was very impressed with it, so I will include it for anyone who deals with high school libraries or readers. Since I personally hand books to most of my students, I won't be buying it; it's not the sort of book anyone wants to be handed by their middle school librarian. But man, it was good.

Burns, Matt. Smooth
June 16th 2020 by Candlewick Press
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Kevin is starting tenth grade, and has been battling horrible cystic acne. At his doctor's appointment right before the school year starts, he mentions taking Accutane to his doctor. There are a lot of conditions to taking the drug, which has serious side effects, but Kevin's acne is so painful and disfiguring that he is willing to take the chances, and doesn't mind filling out forms and having his blood tested once a month. He doesn't want to tell his good friends Luke and Will about this, since he feels they would just give him a hard time. While the three are supposed to be working on a story telling project for language arts, and start with the idea of doing a horror slasher film. At his first blood test appointment, Kevin meets a girl who is also getting treatment for her own acne, and although he doesn't have the nerve to speak with her, he does get her name and picks up her ear buds when she leaves them behind. He feels like Alex might be a kindred spirit, and is soon obsessed with thoughts of her, and what he might say to her the next time they meet. Kevin has somewhat typical 15 year old boy interests,most of which he tries to hide from his parents, and it'snot a surprise that he has underplayed the seriousness of the Accutane as well. As the school year progresses, he starts to feel that Luke and Will are somewhat jerky, thinks that he might be interested in a girl named Emma, has ups and downs in his relationship with Alex, especially when she transfers to his school, and begins to have mood swings that become very serious, and are no doubt tied to the Accutane. When he is helping his younger sister Kate with some of her middle school problems, he realizes that how he is feeling really is very serious, and takes steps to reach out to people in his life and get himself help.
Strengths: The teen boy voice in this was so painfully realistic that I wonder if this is based on the author's own experiences, especially since this is set in 2007. Kevin is a good kid; at one point, he skips going out with his friends to plan his homework for the quarter. He also is quite frank about the private interests of his age group in quite vivid detail, which is why it would be awkward for me to hand this to students. His slow descent into depression is done well. We see him being irritated with people in his life, and he then spirals deeper and deeper into his own thoughts. These changes in tone take place halfway through the book, so readers who don't make it that far miss the hard hitting reality of this title. Teacher and librarians who adored Niven's All the Bright Places or Green's Turtles All the Way Down need to take a look at this book, and remember that the gross bits about acne, horror movies, masturbation, etc. are what will get the fifteen year old boys to read this book and learn from this book it in a way that they might not enjoy or learn from other YA mental health titles. I can imagine many of my readers enjoying this when they are in high school.
Weaknesses: So many f-bombs and private details. This was hard for me to read. I almost want a "young readers edition" so that I can have it in a middle school library.
What I really think: This was such an absorbing read that I couldn't put it down even when I realized I wouldn't be buying it. I am definitely going to recommend that the high school libraries in my district buy it.

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