Friday, April 29, 2022

The Final Cut

Markell, Denis. The Final Cut
April 26th 2022 by Delacorte Press
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Alex is looking forward to a new school year at St. Anselm's school in Brooklyn, and hopes to start off his 7th grade year with a cool new persona. The coolest kid in his summer skateboarding camp called him "Xan", but this doesn't catch on with good friends Lexie and Brandon. When he finds out that he didn't get into the year long Game Theory: Video Game History and Design course that he signed up for but instead was assigned to pottery, he's not happy. It's even worse when he finds out he could have gotten into the poetry course if his hand writing hadn't been so bad! The principal does manage to get him into another course, Film Studies, with Pablo Rosenstein. St. Anselm's is the kind of progressive private school where students call teachers by their first names, and many of the students are from very well-to-do families. Alex feels better about Film Studies as he learns more about the process of making a film, and also when Priti Sharma ends up on a team with him, since she is brilliant and Alex hasn't had a chance to talk with her before this class. Theo, who is a bit odd, is also on the team, and Lexie gets involved with the process as well. There's quite a competition going on between Pablo's class and Mr. Beaverton's, and when Alex and his friends find out that Mr. Beaverton's students are the only ones who win the Golden Reel competition, they are determined to do a good job. The group decides to make a film called "Alice in Anselm", and recruit the best actress in their class to be the lead. There are other issues afoot in their neighborhood; a builder wants to take down Court Street Towers and build a "soulless" new apartment building, which is leading to the displacement of local residents and businesses. Since Alex's father is a deputy commisioner in the Department of Buildings and some of his classmates are very invested in stopping the project, Alex finds himself caught in the middle. When the transfer of film from one computer to another results in computer software that compromises his home computer network, Alex has to figure out how to deal with a wide range of people with evil intentions as well as getting his film done in time for the competition!
Strengths: This included a lot of humor, and I appreciated that Alex and his family were shown in a positive light, with close connections, occasional activities, and a real interest in each other's lives. That is a very hard thing to find these days. The elective course idea is a very cool one that will make a lot of readers jealous; at my school, we are lucky to still have art, gym, and music! Markell is a master at bringing a real sense of place to his stories, like The Ghost in Apartment 2R, and this helped me to feel invested in the building projects. I loved that Priti was so good at everything, and Theo was a mysterious and concerning character who added an additional level of mystery. The details about film making aren't quite as detailed as Marcus Makes a Movie, but are nonetheless helpful. 
Weaknesses: Alex is a bit judgey about a variety of people in a way that felt oddly uncomfortable. I taught at a private school with some rather well-to-do families, and it wasn't a very positive experience, so maybe I am bringing my own baggage to this. 
What I really think: There's a lot going on in the world right now, and sometimes readers need a story that is a little lighter and funnier. This is a great one that will be popular with fans of Greenwald's Pete Milano's Guide to Being a Movie Star, Giles' Take Back the Block, and Gino's recent Alice Austen Lived Here. 

No comments:

Post a Comment