Boy Minus Girl

Boy Minus Girl

3.5 2
by Richard Uhlig

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LES WANTS the girl. He thinks she’s amazing, exotic, perfect. But he doesn’t know how to talk to her, kiss her, or make her realize that he’s the best and only guy for her in the whole wide world.

Once he masters these things, she’ll be his! Easy-peasy, right? The gulf between dreamgirl and realgirl is explored and made somewhat less


LES WANTS the girl. He thinks she’s amazing, exotic, perfect. But he doesn’t know how to talk to her, kiss her, or make her realize that he’s the best and only guy for her in the whole wide world.

Once he masters these things, she’ll be his! Easy-peasy, right? The gulf between dreamgirl and realgirl is explored and made somewhat less vast in this bawdy yet romantic not-quite-coming-of-age. Teens will relate to 14-year-old Les’s hilarious and squirmy longings, and the fulsomely awkward efforts he puts forth to make his real life match his fantasies. The story also
portrays the perils of unexamined hero-worship, and the strength and humanity of people that may seem plain and boring, but who stand up for what is right when called upon to do so. It is a tale both hilarious and thoughtful, in which, to paraphrase the old Rolling Stones adage, one boy figures out that even if you indeed can’t always get what you want, if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 8-10

Lester Ekhardt, 14, longs for Charity Conners, who just moved back to Harker City after living in St. Louis. The eighth grader has been practicing the tips he's read in The Seductive Man and trying to strike a bargain with Jesus (often involving promises to abstain from masturbating) if He will intervene. But it's not until Uncle Ray rolls into town that Lester sees some hope. The man is always making time with the ladies, and Lester thinks that maybe his uncle will help him achieve his romantic goals. Startling revelations about Charity's sexuality, Uncle Ray, and Lester's own parents, however, soon turn everything upside down. Set in the '80s, this coming-of-age story is heavily laced with humor. Lester's struggles with the school bully, his relationship with his parents, and even his inability to refrain from masturbation are realistic and amusing. The characters, even the unlikable ones like Uncle Ray and Brett the bully, are developed well. Teen boys in particular will laugh out loud at this well-written novel.-Heather E. Miller, Homewood Public Library, AL

Kirkus Reviews
This 1980's male coming-of-age narrative tries too hard to be funny. Hormone-ridden eighth-grader Les is anticipating another boring Kansas summer when cool Uncle Ray comes to town packing a revolver, a bottle of Jack Daniels and nudie pics. Ray is Les's idol, but when it comes to light that he's tomcatting around with a local married woman and is on the lam from his pregnant, stripper ex-girlfriend, Les is forced to reevaluate his bed-hopping hero. Meanwhile, he's got his own problems: The town bully wants to crucify him, the girl of his dreams is gay and no matter how hard he tries, he just can't stop masturbating. Uhlig's sitcom plot, populated by stereotypes (the stripper with the heart of gold, the black-sheep uncle, the fat, misunderstood bully), plays for crude, cheap laughs that teens may appreciate in the moment but that won't resonate past the next page. For a subtler, smarter and less cliched portrayal of the teenage-male psyche, opt for the works of Chris Crutcher, John Green or Randy Powell. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
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Random House
File size:
328 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Seduction Tip Number 1:

Tongue Twister

The Seductive Man knows his tongue is an invaluable erotic instrument, which must be exercised daily. Stick it out as far as it will go, then pull it back deep into your mouth. Do this ten times rapidly. Next, flutter your tongue like the wings of a hummingbird for three minutes. Soon you'll be ready to pleasure her with the Velvet Buzz Saw.

Mom, Dad, and I sit at the oval kitchen table, trying to eat Mom's meat loaf. In the window above the sink, the yellow lace curtains frolic in the hot May wind, diluting the strange scent wafting off the meat. To my right, Mom, in her starched nurse's uniform and red-checkered apron, primly sips her iced tea. To my left, Dad, in his dress shirt and tie, squints at the Wichita Eagle-Beacon lying beside his plate.

"Uh, Dad," I say, "the talent show is a week from Friday."

"Uh-huh," he says to the newspaper.

"And, well, my magical vanishing box is nowhere near done."

"Not tonight, son, I'm bushed."

Beneath the table I'm fondling a red grape, massaging the soft skin with my fingertips. This is an exercise recommended in The Seductive Man by M.--a book my best friend, Howard, is loaning me--to condition my hands for a woman's nipples. Someday soon I will be performing this task expertly on Charity Conners, my dream girl.

Dad points to the newspaper but looks at Mom. "Says here this could be the worst tornado season in decades."

"Mmm," Mom says absently. (We are quite used to this sort of announcement from Dad.)

"After dinner I'll go down and make sure the shelter is stocked with enough provisions to last us a couple weeks," Dad says. "In case the house is blown away," he adds.

Dad fears for us all, all of the time--natural disasters, nuclear war, rabid skunks, Lyme disease-carrying ticks, mosquitoes whose bites will make our brains swell up and burst. To Dad the whole world is a virtual land mine of deadly diseases and impending disasters.

I pipe up with: "Maybe this would be a good time for us to go on a trip. Get out of the vicinity of the twisters. Y'know, in three weeks my summer vacation starts. What if we all went to Florida?"

"Florida?" Dad looks at me as if I had just suggested we pitch a tent on Mount Saint Helens.

"The Schneiders are driving to Epcot Center for their summer vacation," I offer.

"You don't say," Mom says. "The Schneiders still owe your father a hundred dollars for setting Tommy's broken arm last January. But I guess for some people a luxurious vacation is more important than paying their debts."

Dad shakes his head. "I can't leave town. I've got a hospital full of patients. Besides, Florida is boiling hot in the summer and your mother's prone to heatstroke."

"Speaking of hot, when can we turn on the air-conditioning?" I ask Mom, unbuttoning my shirt a notch to drive home the point.

"We can easily get by with fans for at least another month," Mom, the family accountant, announces. "I refuse to pay for any more electricity than I absolutely have to. The electricity rates this town charges, why, it's highway robbery!"

"But, Mom, I've heard your very own personal physician say that you're prone to heatstroke," I remind her.

"You know, Les," Mom continues, "you make it sound as if air-conditioning is your birthright. You kids today don't appreciate how spoiled you are with all your luxurious conveniences."

Luxuries? We are practically the only people in town without a dishwasher or cable TV or a garbage disposal. Dad won't allow a microwave in the house for fear of radiation leakage, and the only reason we have a new TV is because Mom won it at a raffle at the IGA. She drives a ten-year-old Buick she inherited from her great-aunt Irma, and we live in the same humble house Dad grew up in. And we aren't poor: Dad has a very busy medical practice, and Mom works, too.

As I stare at the meat loaf and massage the grape, I try to imagine Dad fondling Mom. How could they ever get past the rising cost of groceries and the constant threat of salmonella enough to get in the mood? Yet, here I am. How? Was I adopted? If I was, who are my real parents? Do they ever eat in restaurants? Do they like to travel and socialize and go shopping? Maybe they live in a high-rise in New York City, like the Jeffersons, and stay up late with their glamorous friends, trading witticisms over martinis and discussing the latest Broadway shows. I look at my mother and see we have the exact same light-blue eye color; I look at Dad and see my big brow.

God, I have nothing to look forward to this summer. God, I'm in a slump. God, I need something. Something more. Big-time.

"Got it!" I grab the wall-mounted phone by the fridge. "Eckhardt residence."

"Who's this?" a deep, male smoker's voice asks, from what sounds like a pay phone on the side of a busy highway.

"It's Les."

"Lester the Mo-llester! Hell, this is your uncle Ray! Remember me?!"
Remember him? The last time I saw him, he was passed out, face-down drunk, on our lawn!

"Hi, Uncle Ray!"

Dad smiles while Mom puts her hand to her mouth. My uncle Ray is Dad's only sibling. He was here last for Grandpa Eckhardt's funeral, at which he sported a black leather jacket, torn blue jeans, and no tie. His girlfriend wore purple eye shadow and a low-cut dress that barely contained her gigantic bazookas. I was in the fifth grade and had never seen anyone drunk before (or since).

"Your old man around?!" he shouts over a passing truck horn.

"Uh, sure, Uncle Ray, one sec." I hand the phone to Dad.

"How the hell are you, little brother?!"

I see Mom wince at Dad's coarse language.

"Uh-huh . . . right . . ." Dad nods and smiles, wrapping the phone cord around his index finger. "Well, that would be just fine, Ray. Look forward to it. We'll leave the light on for ya, as they say."

Uncle Ray is coming! Will he bring his generously endowed girlfriend with him? Please please please please please.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Publishers Weekly called Richard Uhlig’s Last Dance at the Frosty Queen “an accomplished black comedy” and VOYA declared “Uhlig’s storytelling is wholly absorbing, image-rich, and insightful.” A native son of Kansas, Uhlig now lives in New York City with his dreamgirl—his wife, Heather—and their two young children.

From the Hardcover edition.

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