Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Young Adult,
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Publication Date: July 25, 2014
Page Count: 258
Source: Xpresso Book Tours
Synopsis: “My life was going, going, gone, and I hadn’t been laid yet. I couldn’t go into the slammer before that happened.” Hutch McQueen.
Sixteen-year-old Hutchinson McQueen is trapped between an abusive mother and an absentee father. Shackled by poor vision and poor reading skills, he squeaks through classes with his talent for eavesdropping and memorizing what he hears. After another suspension from school and suffering through one of his mother’s violent attacks, he escapes to a friend’s house that turns out to be a meth lab. The lab is raided and Hutch lands in juvenile detention. When the court sentences him to six months in a new juvenile program, he meets a teacher with Alzheimer’s who will change his life and hers.
In my other life--the one before I began writing for teens and younger readers--I was a teacher and dministrator at California State University, San Jose. My field of Linguistics and Inter-cultural Communication has carried me to a lot of places in the world to explore different cultures and languages. I can say, “Where’s the toilet?” and “I’m lost!” in at least five languages and two dialects. Go ahead. Pat me on the back. My idea of a perfect day is one or all of the following: starting a new novel, finishing writing a blockbuster novel, hiking on a misty morning trail in the Santa Cruz Mountains, saying Namaste after a great yoga practice, sipping a cappuccino topped at a bustling café, reading in front of a fire with snow outside, swimming in an ocean someplace. I've just set out my perfect life. Day after day after day.
Disclaimer: I recieved this book from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Who Would I Recommend This To?
Fans of The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
Books with lots of character development and rich plots
Background & Backstory:
I'm going to be honest here - I signed up for this blog tour without fully reading the synopsis. I skimmed through the parts about abuse, poor vision, and arrest, then signed up. I'm a sucker for a good book with a male protagonist who overcomes obstacles with the help of a charming femalen who provides new insight and perspective a boy who hasn't had many opportunities would appreciate. For some reason, my brain completely skipped the "Contemporary, Fiction" without the word "Romance" included in the listed genres. Plus, my brain seemed to skip the part of the synopsis saying, "teacher with Alzheimer’s who will change his life."
Therefore, when I started reading, I was a little taken aback and disappointed there wasn't any brilliant female lead who swept Hutch off of his feet - both mentally and physically. Then I went back and (carefully) read the synopsis, and sent my brain down another track that knew what I would be reading. Yet, (Spoiler Alert) I ended up liking the book.
What Was My Reaction After Finishing?
Let me tell you three qualities in a book that I normally dislike, but it turned out that they enhanced the book: Slow Pacing. Characters who make seemingly stupid decisions. A protagonist who isn't the brightest.
Slow Pacing: My #1 Turnoff because I'm an impatient 21st century teenager that needs instant gratification NOW. I have to admit that this is a factor that made me want to DNF Double Negative for the page 80-150 range. In the case of a book being well-developed, sometimes, slow pacing is required.High fantasy novels have the worldbuilding excuse, yet we don't always assume that YA contemporary novels have a development excuse to slow things down. There were a lot of factors in Hutch's character that needed to be shown and not told.... in the medium of whole scenes versus figurative language. We needed to know about past events that made Hutch the way he was AND the current events that continue to steer him in the wrong direction since readers would wonder what was taking so long for the plot to thicken otherwise. The payoff of the slow pacing was especially wonderful in the end when we got to see the finished product of that period of Hutch's life.
Stupid Decisions: This aspect goes hand in hand with the slow pacing. Everyone knows that people get the way they are because of the people around to influence them. Hutch's dad wasn't there, his mom was an irresponsible alcoholic, his friends dealt in drugs, and he had no one aorund to tell him what is right orsupport him in his endeavors. I would say that was an instant recipe for a flawed character. As much as we would all like to believe that Hutch was a wonderful person that could be great DESPITE of his upbringing, the reality is that not many people can actually be this way and he didn't have the exposure or ddesire to go further in life.
Not The Sharpest Tool In The Shed: As a grammar nazi, I struggle when a charcter speaks in a dialect used by people who are seemingly uneducated. Hutch kind of killed me with all of the double negatives (a huge part of the story and the perfect title) and what could be considered "ghetto" talk. The decision to not tell anyone about his vision problems made everything worse for him and held him back tremendously in the group of generally "bad" kids he hung around.
The Absence Of Romance Can Be A Good Thing: There was this girl named Liz in the story and she was considered hot. At his first encounter with her, Hutch wanted to get to know her better, and maybe go around to all of the bases with that hot bod. Yet, her impact on him as a character was not necessarily positive and I was glad when her relationship with Hutch wasn't gone into more detail and petered out. I thought she would have been THE good influence on him, but that was not the path Mckenzie chose for her.
But Wait.... There's More: Hutch's strategy was having this side character named Nyla read him the lengthy passages that were required of him. Nyla was such an interesting character because she was someone Hutch had known for a long time, and she was bullied by everyone. She had an intricate backstory about her being overweight and I thought it added a lot to the plot and an another example of the crushing environment Hutch was submerged in.
How Likely Is It That I Will Read Another Book By This Author?
I think I would only read another book by Mckenzie if I was in the mood for another story with similar themes and character arcs, but don't completely count me out either.
Conclusion: Even though I didn't get what I expected, I was pleasently surprised with the story in terms of character development and all of the strikes against the book that I ended up enjoying.