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Reality bites! Luke and Derek are best friends, but there isn't much Luke can do but watch as Derek gets more and more freaked out by his weird stepmother's control over his father. Luke has issues with his parents, too—all his friends are going through the same thing—but nothing like Derek's. Things go from bad to worse when Derek's parents agree to participate in a reality show hosted by Jesus ("It's pronounced Hey-zoos!"), a self-proclaimed mediator between parents and America's troubled young men, described ...

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Reality bites! Luke and Derek are best friends, but there isn't much Luke can do but watch as Derek gets more and more freaked out by his weird stepmother's control over his father. Luke has issues with his parents, too—all his friends are going through the same thing—but nothing like Derek's. Things go from bad to worse when Derek's parents agree to participate in a reality show hosted by Jesus ("It's pronounced Hey-zoos!"), a self-proclaimed mediator between parents and America's troubled young men, described by Jesus as a "hard-wired, self-centered, disrespectful, atheistic, sex-crazed, indulged bunch of losers."

The fan has three speeds. On its lowest gear, I imagined Phoebe, Coco, Derek, Nate, and me gleefully hanging on to each blade as if we were on an amusement ride. That's how I would have described the spring of our sophomore year. By the beginning of that summer, the fan was in second gear, and we were both excited and terrified by its speed. … But that was okay because we were having fun. … But by the middle of the summer, the fan had shifted into third gear, and there was little to do but hang on and enjoy the rush before being tossed into the heat and confusion of August, the four weeks leading up to Derek's appearance on Loserville. —FROM THE BOOK

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Amie Rose Rotruck
Lucas is trying to figure out why his friend Derek would have leapt off a bridge. He remembers the events of the summer leading up to that tragic event. After school let out for the summer, Lucas and his friends were finding life and their parents harder to cope with every day. When Lucas's friend Derek's parents agree to participate in the reality TV show Loserville, no one could expect how bad things could get. The host of Loserville, Jesus, confronts the teens who appear on the show with evidence of how badly they have screwed up their lives. Before the show airs, cameras follow Derek around, capturing some not-so-great moments of both his and his friends. Once the show airs, the effects on Derek are emotionally staggering. While the concept of the book is good, seeing the reality TV events through Lucas's eyes dampens the effect, especially since the aftermath and how it affects Lucas is unsatisfying. Although an event like this on reality TV could (and has) led to suicide, the reader is left feeling that there was not quite enough despair for Derek to commit suicide. A good basic idea, but in the end the emotional level is not quite enough to carry the plot. Reviewer: Amie Rose Rotruck
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Best friends Derek and Lucas spend the summer between their sophomore and junior years working and hanging out with their friends and girlfriends. There's a bit of drinking and experimenting with pot, but overall they're good kids. Derek is smart, athletic, and good-looking, but he's also a tormented soul. His mom died when he was in elementary school and his dad recently remarried. His stepmother seems to be controlling the family and suggests that Derek be a contestant on Loserville , a TV show aimed at exposing "troubled young men." Why Derek agrees to take part is never quite clear, but he does, and his experiences on the show may be responsible for the tragic ending. This book offers a revealing look at the ethics of reality TV: how circumstantial video can skew the truth and how a callous disregard for the truth debases human beings. It will make readers reconsider this cultural phenomenon and whether a few moments of schadenfreude are worth ruining someone's life.-Patricia N. McClune, Conestoga Valley High School, Lancaster, PA

Kirkus Reviews
Lucas and his crew-eccentric Nate, hotheaded Derek and twins Phoebe and Coco-are typical teenagers, engaging in low-grade mischief and experimenting with drugs and rebellion. All have issues with their parents, covering the entire spectrum of adolescent/parental conflict. But when Derek's born-again zealot of a stepmother enters him in a reality-TV show called Loserville, things go horribly wrong. Hosted by the unsettlingly named armchair-psychiatrist Jesus, the show slants the crew's reality and condenses it into a TV-ready, drama-soaked cry for teen attention. Staccato chapters punctuate the quick, frenetic flow of movement in this odd novella, resulting in anecdotal chapters that at times lack cohesion. Lucas has no qualms about ranting, yet is too stunted to actually do anything besides vocalize. Johnson creates a seemingly unfinished sketch, with too much attention to the mundane (is it entirely integral to the story to add a three-page description of the gang watching Jeopardy?), creating a tenuous bond for even the most dedicated reader. An interesting enough premise, but overall oddly constructed with little new to offer. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608981328
  • Publisher: namelos
  • Publication date: 10/7/2011
  • Pages: 148
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Johnson teaches English and creative writing at Providence College and is the winner of the James Laughlin Award for his collection of prose poems, Miracles & Mortifications. His other books include Love Poems for the Millennium and Pretty Happy!, both collections of prose poems, and I'm a Man, a series of short stories. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com

    Derek's friend, Lucas, is trying to piece together the events that led to Derek's disappearance. The account begins in May as school is wrapping up for the summer. Their group of friends is making plans for summer jobs and, more importantly, summer fun.

    Everyone has family issues. Lucas's parents view his relaxed attitude as lazy and are constantly on his case about what they call his underachiever habits. Coco and Phoebe are twins dealing with a controlling mother. Nate annoys everyone by insisting that Kurt Cobain is emailing him with evidence that his death was not a suicide.

    After the death of Derek's mother years ago, he and his father muddled along as best they could. That is until his father met Claudia with her tight tops and short skirts. She isn't exactly the stepmother he had in mind.

    Hovering in the background as the friends begin their summer activities is the reality show Loserville. As Lucas relates their story, he constantly remarks on the world's addiction to reality TV.

    Derek is about to become part of the entertainment, because Claudia has booked him a spot on Loserville hosted by Jesus (heys-zoos). A bit like Jerry Springer, Jesus confronts his young guests with evidence of how badly they've messed up their lives. Cameras follow the guests before the actual taping of the show, filming less-than-ideal moments in their lives and then editing it to show their true "loser" lifestyle. Derek's friends try to support him as they wait to see how the show will affect his life.

    Lucas recounts the events of the summer leading up to Derek's appearance on Loserville and the strange incident that follows.

    Teen readers will no doubt relate to the high-risk behavior of the characters and their struggle to cope with demanding parents and other social pressures. Life isn't easy as a teen, and author Peter Johnson uses that to create a "reality show" of his own as he brings his characters alive.

    LOSERVILLE is a fast read with appeal for older teens interested in taking a look inside the lives of other typical teenagers.

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