The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine

The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine

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by April Lurie

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A MOTHER WHO split for another man.

A father who works 24/7.

An older brother who excels at everything—and smokes a lot of weed.

A best friend, of the feminine persuasion, who only wants to be a friend, and who’s shooting a film set in cool Greenwich Village, New York.

Dylan Fontaine’s life seems to be full of drama he

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A MOTHER WHO split for another man.

A father who works 24/7.

An older brother who excels at everything—and smokes a lot of weed.

A best friend, of the feminine persuasion, who only wants to be a friend, and who’s shooting a film set in cool Greenwich Village, New York.

Dylan Fontaine’s life seems to be full of drama he can’t control. But when he stars in his best friend’s movie, Dylan discovers that, sometimes, life’s big shake-ups force you to take risks—and to step into the spotlight.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sibling relationships form the core of Lurie's (Dancing in the Streets of Brooklyn) busy novel, but with so much diffuse action and so many half-sketched characters, readers might have trouble finding a focal point. Dylan Fontaine, the 15-year-old narrator, lives in chaos: his mother has moved out to live with Dylan's art teacher; his older brother, Randy, gets stoned all the time and might drop out of school to tour with his band, The Dead Musicians Society; his father, an obstetrician, is never around, making their Brooklyn house the 24-hour gathering place for the band and, maybe, a spot to stash drugs. Dylan also struggles with girls-the one he wishes were his girlfriend has tapped her ex-boyfriend to help her shoot a documentary about Dylan, and the one in the band flirts with both Dylan and his brother. By the time Dylan steps out of the little brother/sidekick role to take center stage in his own life, the author wraps up remaining conflicts so tidily that she seems to cheat (Why would the boys have thought their mother had left for another man? Didn't they know the art teacher was just a friend?). Ages 14-up.
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KLIATT - Claire Rosser
I'm very fond of Lurie's pervious work, Brothers, Boyfriends & Other Criminal Minds and Dancing in the Streets of Brooklyn. She really understands sibling relationships and family life. She writes with wit, intelligence, and compassion for her characters. Here, Dylan Fontaine is trying to survive the altered state of his parents' marriage: his mother, an artist, has left for Paris, and his father (a doctor) is moping around or working all the time. Dylan's brother Randy, a brilliant musician, is dealing with the mother's desertion by smoking weed, skipping school, and hanging out with an odd assortment of young musicians as they form a band. Usually the band hangs out at Dylan's and Randy's house, disturbing Dylan's peace as he worries about Randy and lusts after Chloe, the singer. Police are involved, a drug deal goes wrong, a fierce housekeeper is called in to establish some order in the home, and Dylan and Randy finally start pulling away from the brink when they talk to their mother and find out her side of the story. This is a story about guys, primarily�brothers; fathers and sons; lonely young men who are feeling somewhat lost. Any reader will care for each one of them. Lurie does a wonderful job of making them real. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
Children's Literature - Wendy M. Smith-D'Arezzo
Lurie engages the reader from the first page with a witty and self-effacing first-person narrator. Dylan Fontaine is younger brother to Randy, a musical prodigy, genius, talented artist; as the story unfolds, Dylan examines his inner feelings about his family, his brother's band mates and their use of illegal substances, and girls. In addition to normal adolescent developmental issues, Dylan wrestles with his mother's absence and his father's distance due to his incredibly busy ob/gyn practice, leaving Dylan and Randy to fend for themselves. Dylan sees his role as the caretaker, but finds this is impossible if someone, particularly Randy, does not want to be cared for. The story moves quickly and Dylan's voice is well developed and believable. Although Dylan's mother does not move back home, many other issues are superficially resolved by the end of the book. While tension and conflict are adequately developed, they are quickly deflated with an ending that does not do justice to the overall quality of this book. Reviewer: Wendy M. Smith-D'Arezzo
VOYA - Karen Jensen
Some books have that stellar first sentence that grabs the reader and never lets go: I can tell you from experience that a jail cell is not a place you'd like to visit. When readers first meet Dylan Fontaine he is in jail-for stealing underwear and carrying marijuana. They soon learn that Dylan is an all-American teenage boy whose life is falling apart. His mother has left the family for an artist, his father is a doctor who works around the clock, and his brother is taking a walk on the wild side of drugs and rock 'n' roll. Dylan is an aspiring varsity basketball player and artist trying to figure out what to do about his unrequited crush on best friend Angie. Soon Dylan finds himself the star of Angie's summer movie project, which forces him to really look at himself and his life. This coming-of-age story is compulsively readable. From the moment that Dylan begins recounting the bizarre set of circumstances that lead to his arrest until the very end, Lurie creates such a sympathetic and engaging character that readers cannot help but become invested. Dylan's story has it all: humor, pathos, family struggles, and great characterizations and voice. Lurie is also the author of the well-reviewed Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds (Delacorte, 2007). Reviewer: Karen Jensen
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

This story opens with 16-year-old Dylan Fontaine in a Brooklyn police station being held for shoplifting a package of tighty-whities underwear while holding a bag of marijuana in his pocket for his older brother. The shoplifting was merely an accident; Dylan ran out of the store when he thought he saw his mother, who left their family weeks ago. Though he wants to get bailed out of jail, what he really wants is for his mother to come home (she ran off with her art teacher), his brother to act responsibly, and his dad, a doctor, to begin living at their home instead of the hospital. As Dylan reels from the effect of all these events, his best friend and love interest, Angie, decides it is the perfect time to make him the subject of her summer school movie project, capturing the teen's struggle with chaos and control with a quirky, film-school flair. Lurie tells this story from Dylan's point of view, in the voice of a responsible, but confused, teen. As he sorts through his issues with his brother, father, mother, and Angie, he gains confidence and courage, and his voice becomes stronger and more defined. Brooklyn and Manhattan's West Village settings are appealing. The story successfully walks the fine line of blending humor and drama, and the cinematic ending is sure to please.-Emily Anne Valente, New York Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
Following his arrest for shoplifting, 15-year-old Dylan Fontaine figures out jail is not for him. Once released, the New York City teen embarks on an adolescent journey of self-discovery. He juggles a laundry list of problems: His OB-GYN father works on call 24/7, his mother left to cohabitate with an artist friend and his older brother Randy smokes a prodigious amount of weed while trying to break out his band, the Dead Musicians Society. Dylan becomes the anchor to the chaos and his patience wears thin. The earnest young man is thrilled by a spike in romantic possibilities when crush Angie wants to use Dylan as the subject for her film documentary and sexy Chloe pays attention to him. Unfortunately, today's readers will feel detachment from musical name-dropping that mentions only oldies such as Hendrix, Springsteen and Nirvana. Nevertheless, Lurie has created a well-paced story about a teen guy who shoulders responsibility while becoming his own person. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

I CAN TELL YOU FROM EXPERIENCE that a jail cell is not a place you'd like to visit. Now, I'm no Papillon, and the police station serving the Sixty-eighth precinct in Brooklyn, New York, is no Devil's Island, but it sucks just the same. To give you a mental picture, for the past thirty minutes I've been sitting on a concrete bench staring at (1) a prehistoric toilet that is no doubt infested with E. coli and gonorrhea, (2) a very large, possibly mutated cockroach snacking on a green potato chip, and (3) an entire wall devoted to words and phrases that would put even Howard Stern under the table.

I'm waiting for my father to show up and bail me out. However, the two police officers who slapped the handcuffs on me outside the Century 21 department store are having a difficult time tracking him down. My dad is a doctor-ob-gyn, to be precise-so at the moment he could be delivering a baby, performing a hysterectomy, or doing some other procedure on a woman's body, which is something I'd rather not think about. Especially after reading Memoirs of a Pervert on the aforementioned wall.

Outside my cell, the nice cop, Officer Burns, hangs up the phone. "Hey, Dylan, looks like your dad will be here in twenty minutes."

"Oh, okay," I say. "Thanks, thanks a lot."

The not-so-nice cop, Burns's partner, Officer Greenwood, arches an eyebrow like he's never before met such a polite juvenile delinquent, then pours himself a cup of coffee. He dumps in a buttload of creamer and stirs. I can't help myself. "Um, sir . . ." He looks up. "You might consider switching to milk or half-and-half. That stuff you just used, it's got a lot of trans fat."

He takes a gulp of his coffee and winces like he just scorched his throat. "Oh, is that so?"

I'm not being a wiseass. The truth is, for the past couple of months I've been doing our family's weekly food shopping, and I've become a little obsessed about additives, preservatives, artificial colorings, things like that. "Yeah, I read an article about it in Newsweek. The FDA has linked trans fats to soaring cholesterol levels. Just thought you might want to know."

He picks up the container of creamer and squints at the label. "Well," he says, "it's amazing I'm still alive." Then he rolls his eyes at Burns, who, because he's a nice guy, only smiles.

While the two of them fill out a pile of paperwork regarding yours truly, I go back to wondering what my father's reaction will be when he finds out the particulars of my arrest. I've never been in real trouble before, and since it's my seventeen-year-old brother, Randy, who's been screwing up lately, I figure I stand a pretty good chance of a lecture and a few weeks' grounding. And because my dad has other things on his mind, like the fact that my mother is now living in Greenwich Village with Philippe LeBlanc, her former art professor, he might consider the whole thing, well, trivial.

Twenty minutes later my dad walks through the door in his labor and delivery scrubs. Paper booties adorn his Nikes, and a surgical mask hangs from his neck. He sees me in the cell and rushes over. "Dylan, are you all right?"

"Yeah, Dad, I'm fine."

He looks frazzled. "I don't believe this. I thought for sure they had the wrong kid. I mean, if they'd said it was Randy, I'd understand, but . . . Dylan, what's going on?"

I hold up one hand. "There is an explanation, Dad. It's just, well-"

"Dr. . . . Fontaine?" Officer Burns stands there gaping. "Is that you?"

Suddenly I realize that this is my ace in the hole. My dad must have delivered Burns's baby. Maybe even saved the kid's life. My dad turns around, and when he sees Burns he shakes his head and smiles wryly. "Well, what do you know? Michael Burns. How are you? How's Christina, how's the baby?"

Burns walks over and they shake hands while Greenwood watches from a distance, sipping his poisoned coffee. "Oh, they're fine," Burns says. "In fact, we just took Sarah in for her one-month checkup-she's already ten pounds. Here, let me show you." He reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a wallet, and when the two of them ogle baby Sarah, Officer Greenwood can't take it anymore. He picks up my stack of paperwork, raps it a few times against the desk, and clears his throat.

"Should we, uh, get down to business, gentlemen?"

Burns and my father look up. "Oh . . . yes, of course," my father says. "Sorry about that, Officer. Sorry, Dylan."

No problem, I think. Anything to get on the good side of the law.

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