From the moment that soon-to-be-11th-grader Chad hears the boardwalk clown hurling insults, the teen adds the job to his list of goals. In what PW called "an engrossing novel, Lubar ably charts a watershed summer between boyhood and manhood." Ages 13-up. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Summer at the shore sounds idyllic, but 15-year-old Chad is unhappy. He lives near the beach in New Jersey year-round with his hard-working waitress mother; she is divorced from his long-gone father. The memory of his father's shiftlessness makes Chad angry; he's not too pleased with the world in general, in fact, and wishes his mother would let him take a real job. But when he watches the performance of the new Bozo at the dunk tank, expertly heckling victims on the boardwalk, Chad acquires a new ambition in life; instead of being "a loser," "I wanted to shout and scream at the world from the safety of a cage. I wanted to be the Bozo." This new Bozo turns out to be Chad's mother's new tenant, Malcolm, a professor of theater with a sad past. Chad and Malcolm edge with difficulty into a relationship that eventually becomes almost father-son, as Malcolm instructs Chad in the fine art of becoming a Bozo. But there is more to Chad's summer than just becoming a Bozo; he gets into some trouble with the police; his best friend is diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, and Chad finds that laughter can heal as well as sting; and he finally works up the courage to ask a girl out, and to convince his mother to let him take a job. Lubar, author of the fantasy Hidden Talents, tells an engaging story, with believable and interesting characters and witty dialogue. He portrays the world of the boardwalk with affection and a keen eye for detail. Readers will be pleased when Chad's troubled summer ends happily, with increased self-confidence and finally, a hard-won and triumphant turn at being a Bozo. Category: Hardcover Fiction. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students.2002, Houghton Mifflin, Clarion, 256p.,
Paula Rohrlick; KLIATT
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-As Chad finishes his sophomore year of high school, he looks ahead to a summer on the Jersey shore boardwalks. Although his over-worked, hard-pressed mother insists she doesn't want him to take a job, Chad is drawn to the dunk tank and the Bozo-a clown whose job is to hook his "marks" with bitter but funny taunts until enough money has been spent to result in a dunking. The Bozo turns out to be hiding from a tragic past, yet ready to try teaching his acting talents to others. Chad quickly finds he needs the skills to evoke laughter as he fights his way out of a depression by trying to save his best friend, dangerously ill with an autoimmune disease. A summer romance, run-ins with the local police, and Chad's worries that he will turn out like his deadbeat absent father provide more problems for Chad to deal with. This full-cast production of the book by David Lubar (Clarion, 2002), complete with carnival music, is very well produced and gives listeners many great voices to listen to, chief among them Matt Golden. He keeps the story moving, and the voiced repartee of the Bozo is another highlight of this audio version. The audio enhances the atmosphere of life along a boardwalk. In the CD version, each disk includes a contents listing matching book chapters to CD tracks, very helpful for those who like to listen and follow along in the book or to facilitate picking up the story at a later time. This captivating story deserves a place in all teen collections. Lubar, who is interviewed by Bruce Coville at the end of the story, showcases a narrow and little-seen slice of life that will fascinate while allowing exploration of the kind of issues confronting teenagers everywhere.-Jane P. Fenn, Corning-Painted Post West High School, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Lubar's (Hidden Talents, 1999, etc.) latest is somewhat weaker than the sum of its parts. The characters are strong, the setting is interesting enough, but somehow the plot just does not ring true. Chad lives on the Jersey shore, an odd place to live, especially in the off season. Chad and his single mother try to scrape together enough money to pay the mortgage, she by working and renting their second floor to boarders, Chad by scamming side jobs on the boardwalk. When Malcolm, a college professor with a unique summer job, becomes their new tenant, Chad's summer is irrevocably changed. Malcolm works as a "Bozo" at the dunk tank, the smart-mouthed jokester who jeers passers-by into spending their money to dunk him. Chad is so taken by Malcolm's ability to come up with the perfect wisecrack every time that he vows to study him and become a Bozo himself. Added to this unlikely career choice is Chad's struggle to work up the courage to talk to his dream girl, the collapse of his best friend due to a rare autoimmune disease, and Malcolm's slow revelations about his past that led him to this vocation. Chad is an appealing enough teen, nice to his mother, hangs out with his friends, worries about his social life, yet somehow is just not likable enough. Lubar seems to throw in a lot of filler-Chad's friend's disease, his struggles to talk to a girl he likes-which doesn't necessarily add to the story. One substantial plot device involves Malcolm introducing Chad to classics in humor (the Marx brothers, Charlie Chaplin) and discussing how laughter and humor can be healing. Chad uses this idea to help his friend feel better as they await news of his disease, but these parts are few and far between.Not a bad effort, just not quite there. Will appeal to junior-high boys who aren't looking for a challenging read. (Fiction. 12-14)
From the Publisher
"A solid novel about the anger and agression that often fuels humor--and the compassion that can enhance it." Horn Book
4Q/4P "Dunk confirms Lubar's growing stature as an author of distinctive, intriguing, and highly original young adult fiction." VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)
Lubar ably charts a watershed summer between boyhood and manhood, just one of the attractions of [his] engrossing novel." Publishers Weekly
"Lubar tells an engaging story with believable and interesting characters and witty dialogue. . . . Readers will be pleased." KLIATT
"Chad is the prototype of the hard-luck teen. The Bozo, too, is classic
With painful truth, Lubar create[s] complex characters." Booklist, ALA
"...genuinely original. Readers will relish [that] blend of hope and cynicism that gives [the boardwalk] its rich and gamey flavor." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"well-realized characters in a solid novel about the anger that often fuels humor - and the compassion that enhances it." The HORN BOOK GUIDE, pointer review Horn Book Guide, Pointer
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1 His voice ripped the air like a chain saw. The harsh cry sliced straight through my guts the first time I heard it. The sound cut deep, but the words cut deeper. He shredded any fool who wandered near the cage. He drove people wild. He drove them crazy. Best of all, he drove them to blow wads of cash for a chance to plunge his sorry butt into a tank of slimy water.
This was just about the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Which made it that much more amazing, since I lived in one of the coolest places on the planet and I’d seen some of the freakiest things man or nature had ever created.
I was on my way down the boardwalk to get a slice of pizza at Salvatore’s. Today was the start of the tourist season. The crowds were thin because the ocean water was still chilly. That wouldn’t last. In a few weeks the place would be mobbed. It would stay that way until the end of summer— wall-to-wall tourists frantically packing as much activity as possible into their vacation at the Jersey shore. I hoped someone special would also return. But if I thought about her too much right now, I knew I’d go crazy.