review: (advanced copy of) Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach

geoff

*This book will be released Tuesday, May 6 2014. 

I received Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach from the publisher Sourcebooks Fire. I don’t recall asking for it, but I am not one to turn down a free book. Especially one that pits band geeks against, well…anyone else. You see, I was a band geek. Will be one for life, I suppose. So I instantly fell in love with Gabe – nicknamed Chunk due to his spherical body – and his smart mouth. That isn’t to say I liked everything about him, however that’s the sign of a good character. One with traits you dislike, but whose soul you love.

Gabe and the marching band face a band camp-less summer due to funds from the soda machine being given to the new dance team, where in the past the funds were for the band. Gabe and his friends slowly start a rebellion…one that results in him in an interrogation cell. The book is told in first-person from inside that interrogation cell.

The team of unlikely heroes may seem incongruous to what Hollywood thinks of high school, but it’s 100% factual for what high school really is like. Football players do support the rebellion efforts of their band geek friends. Goth girls do fall for overzealous, overweight, rebellion-inciting boys. Friends who were once awesome do turn into the enemy. This is reality, and Herbach nailed it.

Recommended for:
High schoolers who like a little rebellion with their reading. Band geeks will pump their fists in the air, jocks will nod in approval, and goth girls will smile. Just a little.

Read-alikes:
Scar Boys had a similar misfit-turned-hero element. A.S King’s Reality Boy is not nearly as light as Fat Boy but a solid read-alike.

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Book 6: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley just won the 2012 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. And might I add…deservedly so. This story follows 17 year old Cullen Witter through a surreal summer complete with a missing brother, the reappearance of an extinct bird, and a zombie-filled imagination. The cast of characters is at times helpful and hilarious, at other times depressing as hell. The title denotes the theme of the book, that no matter how far away you might get (even dead, like the woodpecker was suspected of being) you always come back to Lily, Arkansas. Education, romance, nor death could keep Lilians from coming back, for better or worse.

Anyone who has lived in a small town knows the feeling. “I’ll never get out of here,” or “Once I’m gone, I’m never coming back!” And anyone who has ever uttered those words knows that, more often than not, you don’t, and you do, respectively. Urbanites will likely not ‘get’ this aspect of the book, but I hope that doesn’t keep them from learning from it.

I loved getting to know Cullen, Lucas, and Gabriel, even though it was only for a summer. I know we would have been friends had I lived in Whaley’s fictitious Lily, Arkansas as a teen. I would have swam in the lake, watched movies at the drive-in, and discussed the curse of Ada Taylor’s boyfriends. I recommend this book to anyone from a small town, anyone who ever felt trapped, anyone who ever felt scared, anyone who ever loved their family (despite their faults). This was a wonderfully written book, and one that deserved to win the Printz Award. (Disclaimer: I have not read every single YA book published in the year 2011, removing some validity from my previous statement.)

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Upcoming reviews: The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder, and An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer (received as a free ARC from the publisher via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer group)