A quirky coming-of-age tale about a boy who has only one goal: save the world.
Publishers WeeklyAustralian author Bone's offbeat but ultimately tender novel opens as 16-year-old Susan Bennett returns home after being booted from boarding school. She takes her overweight but graceful brother, whom she's nicknamed "Neat," to the Theater of Possibility, where audience members can write down their wishes and performers act them out. Neat, the subject of their father's award-winning book, The Silent Boy, breaks years of silence (he stopped talking on Susan's eighth birthday) to tell Susan that his wish is to save the world. With the help of Todd, a performer they meet at the theater, Neat lands a spot on community TV. But while the "fat Buddha" can reach strangers, there are still problems at home, like the battle that's raged between Susan and her dad since Neat stopped talking. The story alternates between Susan, Neat and Todd's perspectives (and with occasional excerpts from The Silent Boy). Readers will connect with each of the characters' complicated points of view, from Susan's anger toward her father, whom she felt used her brother for his own fame, to Neat's innocent longing to devour the pain he sees in others including their father's feelings of loss when his son stopped speaking. The rather bizarre plot takes some jarring turns, e.g., the appearance of Mr. Goodman, a washed-up game show host who becomes Neat's TV cohost. Yet readers will find themselves swept up in the Bennetts' world, trying to figure out who's telling the truth about what happened eight years ago and how to interpret the fat boy's lyrical but often mystifying words. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATTIn this fast-paced postmodern novel, perspective ricochets between three people: Susan, age 16, furious and fearful, expelled from boarding school for shaving her head; Neat, her older brother, electively mute for the past eight years; and Todd, a street actor with more emotional directness than Susan knows how to handle. This is the story of Neat's announcement that he wants to save the world and his subsequent community-access television show that pulls all three characters into a whirlwind of activity. It is also the story of Susan and Neat's family history. Moments of tenderness are few and welcome amid the swirl of confusion and pain, but the revelations are cryptic: readers may finish the book feeling that they don't quite understand everything about Susan and Neat's childhood trauma. Toddpersistently supportive despite much confusionis the grounding force of this book, and Susan is a compelling mix of anger and vulnerability. The character of Neat is more problematic. He is hard to understand, even when we are shown his point of view. Also, by repeatedly calling him "the fat boy," and by constantly using words ("flabby," "bloated," "massive," "meaty," "vast") that force the reader to see him as a visual fascination, the narrative voice deprives Neat of his personhood. Given modern society's relentless prejudice against fat people, this is inexcusable. Hopefully readers will have a critical view of this narrative unfairness, and won't let it overshadow Susan and Todd's compelling tussle between emotional defense and connection. KLIATT Codes: SRecommended for senior high school students. 1998, Pocket Books, Pulse, 228p., $5.99. Ages 16 to 18.Reviewer: Rebecca Rabinowitz; V.H. Scholar, Children's Lit., Simmons College, Bo , November 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 6)
VOYATo his sixteen-year-old sister Susan's knowledge, Brian Bennett, a.k.a. Neat, has not spoken a word for eight years. Susan's unexpected return home from boarding school, complete with newly shaven bald head, begins a series of events that lead to her older brother Neat's declaration that he wishes to save the world. Accompanied by his stuffed duck, Mr. D; Todd, a street performer whom he befriends; and Susan, Neat begins his quest. Along the way, Neat truly works miracles on two lonely, friendless souls, and with Todd's help, Susan begins to understand her life and what happened eight years ago to change everyone's lives. Traveling to the United States with a 1999 Notable Australian Book Award, this book might find a niche among American young adult readers. Unfortunately, they will need to leap a large hurdledisconcerting and continual changes in point of viewto appreciate this work, and it is doubtful that many readers will want to work that hard to enjoy a book. Susan's experiences are revealed in first person, whereas the experiences of Todd and Neat are told by a third-person omniscient narrator. Because the narrators change with great regularity, the effect is jarring, rather than illuminating. As the story unfolds, readers will become interested in how the threads of each life intertwine, but the reading experience itself will leave them less than satisfied. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P S (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001 (orig. 1998), Simon & Schuster, 228p, $5.99 pb. Ages 15 to 18. Reviewer: Lynn Evarts SOURCE: VOYA, February 2002 (Vol. 24, No.6)
School Library JournalGr 9 Up-This Australian novel boasts quirky, offbeat characters, but its uneven writing and slow pace will discourage most readers. Kicked out of boarding school, 16-year-old Susan Bennett returns home to a troubled, overweight older brother who hasn't spoken in eight years. When Neat publicly breaks his silence, his words are surprising: "I want to save the world." Soon the two meet up with Todd, an aspiring young actor who has run away from a family that doesn't understand his creative impulses. The story alternates between Susan's and Todd's points of view, with an occasional jump into Neat's head. When Susan and Neat's parents return from their extended trip to Europe, Susan confronts them and finally gains insight into the source of her anger. Unfortunately, the plot is sometimes confusing and not always believable. The Bennett family's secret, finally revealed, is anticlimactic and not terribly convincing. Susan is too defensive and unreasonable to be sympathetic and Neat remains an enigma throughout. Readers will have an easier time identifying with Todd, who refuses to give up on Susan or on his acting dreams. However, lengthy passages of internal dialogue often slow the plot to a crawl, and the story eventually sinks under the weight of its characters' excessive introspection.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
- Simon Pulse
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.00(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.55(d)
- Age Range:
- 14 - 17 Years
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