Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Big Read Readalike

This is sort of like Fahrenheit 451, but for kids, and about movie censorship. The message that I got from it loud and clear was that the best way to get a bunch of people to read or watch something is to tell them that they can't.

How to Get Suspended and Influence People: A Novel by Adam Selzer

“You don’t have to be smart to be a smart-ass.

But it helps.”

The front of this book made me pick it up and the quote on the back made me check it out and take it home.
Leon is your typical thirteen year old boy. He’s into heavy metal, he’s kind of a loner, he has a crush on a girl in his homeroom, he thinks his parents are weird, he finds schoolwork monotonous and his teachers are oppressive. Of course, he’s only into heavy metal because it makes him just acceptable enough to avoid the school bullies. And the only thing he has in common with his other school friends is that they are all in the gifted pool, a student enrichment class that gets them out of 6th period once a week. The gifted teacher is uptight, serious and very moral, so the students always spend the class trying to annoy her. And Leon’s parents are truly strange. His dad hates Thomas Edison and is always trying (and failing) to invent things. His mom is a food disaster hobbyist, which means she buys strange old cookbooks and makes the worst recipes to serve the family for dinner – just for fun! I loved all the quality family time spent making bizarre casseroles together, dressed in period clothing, just to produce practically inedible cuisine for dinner. Oh my, the things that kids will do to humor their parents -- !

Since they are in eighth grade this year at middle school, and the school has a new multimedia library, Leon and his gifted friends are assigned to make health and safety videos that will be shown to the sixth and seventh graders. Some people choose topics like seat belts or drug use, but Leon chooses sex ed, and he decided to make an avant-garde film (even though he just learned what that meant a few days earlier) for his project. Soon everyone has an opinion about Leon’s film project, and – you guessed it – Leon is quickly gaining the valuable experience that allows him to tell this story, so that just like the title says, you can learn “How to Get Suspended and Influence People.”

His friend Anna makes an awesome video as well, pointing out that many of the great authors they read in English class died of drug or alcohol related problems in a most ironic way...
Leon is just one of the great characters in this book that will make you want to hang out with the fringes of eighth grade society just to see what is going on in their brilliant, warped minds.
I checked it out and read it in one evening. 183 pgs


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