Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Operation Do-Over

Korman, Gordon. Operation Do-Over
January 11th 2022 by Balzer + Bray
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

Mason and Ty were destined to be best friends. From a very young age, they shared many interests and character traits. They were constantly together, and their families supported them; Mason's keeping nut free snacks for Ty and Ty's stocking the kind of chips that didn't irritate Mason. When "the most awesome girl who ever lived" moves to town, both boys are smitten. Their nerdy hearts thrill to her love of science and time travel, and she's just a nice person. Even though the sporty bullies Dominic and Miggy try to claim her, she decides to hang out with the friends, as well as Clarissa. Mason and Ty realize that they both are interesteed in Ava, so they form a treaty, just like the Klingons and Romulans. Neither will pursue her. Unfortunately, this doesn't work very well, since Ava really likes Mason. He tries to avoid her, but when the two end up at the Harvest Festival together during a horrible pop up storm, they are caught kissing on camera. Ty sees the photo and that's the end of the friendship. Fast forward five years: Mason is a senior, and a lot has happened in his life. His parents have divorced, his beloved dog Rufus was killed while chasing a Roto-Rooter truck, and he and Ty are not friends. After a fracas at school that ended in his favorite teacher being injured, Mason is expelled, and soon after is in a car accident. 

When he wakes up, he's 12 again, and at a school sleepover to watch a meteor shower. He is confused, but retains his memories of the intervening years. He knows, for example, that Mason and Ty were the ones who snuck into the sleepover and poured hydrogen peroxide on some students. Once he realizes he's stuck in the past, he tries to fix things. He starts cleaning up after his father, training Rufus to ignore trucks, and steers clear of Ava as much as he can. He even stands up to Dominic, flattening him with a tackle when he snatches Ty's back pack, and tries out for the football team in order to change his destiny. It works for a while, but Ty becomes irritated at how mean Mason is to Ava. After meeting Madame Zeynab, a local fortune teller, while out with the football team, Mason tries to find her again to eleaborate on why she thinks he has "two futures". The one event he tries desperately to avoid is the Harvest Fair, but he doesn't manage. The events unfold too closely to the way they did the first time, despite all of his efforts. Will he be able to salvage his relationship with Ty the second time around?

This novel struck a chord in me, and is probably my favorite Korman title so far. If I could go back to 8th grade and get a second chance, I would change just about everything about my entire life. I identified very strongly with Clarissa, who is another smart girl, but one whom the boys don't like. Her conversation with Mason in his second twirl through being 12 was heartbreaking, but I loved how Mason encouraged her to try out for the track team, and how her adversarial relationship with Ty shook out. I also found it endearing and very realistic that Mason not only tried out for the football team in his second chance, but stayed on it into high school, despite his childhood clutziness. Middle schoolers often explore different identities, but also often feel that they can't make any changes, so this was just interesting to see. Ava was a fantastic characters who was smart, funny, and extremely kind. It was hard to watch Mason be mean to her, even though his motives were clear. 

There aren't as many books about boys' friendships as there should be, and it was heartwarming to see Ty and Mason's relationship. Bonding over shared interests, they supported each other in school, and created their own safe space, away from the Dominics and Miggys of the world. I loved seeing them in high school after Mason's trip to the past, but I don't want to ruin the ending!

Korman always crafts intriguing, original stories with moments of humor and more realistic middle grade concerns. Seeing Mason use his older perspective to try to deal with his friendship with Ty, parents' relationship problems and the loss of his beloved pet was fascinating, and addresses concerns that many children have. Hand this to avid fans of this author's work, and to readers who enjoy Jordan Sonnenblick, Paul Acampora, and Dan Richards. 

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