From the Publisher
"[A] lighthearted, off-beat slice of life . . . Breezy and entertaining."--Kirkus Reviews
"This rollicking novel about the painful beginnings of adolescence should have wide appeal."--The Horn Book
Soto (Accidental Love) offers a send-up of adolescence in this intermittently amusing yet rather repetitious saga narrated by a boy who, on his 13th birthday, "woke up as a chimpanzee." Ronnie suddenly notices that his ears are splayed, his nose appears "flatter than ever," and his chin sports "peachy fuzz." Not only that, but he notices, "my gait seemed wider and was sort of rolling and [my arms] were hanging so low at my side that I could tie my shoes without bending over." His best friend, Joey, exhibits the same "teenage chimp" symptoms and takes to beating his chest and jumping up and down. The monkey metaphors come fast and furiously: at a sports awards ceremony, Joey climbs up into the rafters of the gym to rescue a balloon belonging to Jessica, a cute girl who has caught his eye (a coach bellows, "What do you think you are? A monkey?"). Mortified, Joey takes up residence in a tree in his yard. Ronnie then attempts to convince the coach to apologize to his tree-bound pal and also to play Cupid between Joey and Jessica (and between the coach and his estranged wife). He encounters some obstacles, but eventually succeeds. Despite a surfeit of overblown primate-related quips, Soto shapes sympathetic young characters and pulls off some comical hyperbole while imparting a worthy message about self-acceptance. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Carlisle Kraft Webber
For many boys, turning thirteen is a rite of passage into manhood. For Ronaldo Gonzalez, better known as Ronnie, it is a ritual of transition into chimpanzee-hood. When he looks in the mirror on his thirteenth birthday, Ronnie sees nothing but a huge growth spurt, all gangly limbs and ears that stick out. His best friend, Joey, a gifted athlete with an attitude problem, is in the same predicament. On the night that they serve a detention with Coach "Bear" Puddlefield, Joey falls in love with a gymnast named Jessica. As boys are liable to do, Joey humiliates himself in front of her in an incident involving rafters and a helium balloon, and in his disgrace, he banishes himself to life in a treetop. Now, it is up to Ronnie to find the mysterious Jessica and let her know how Joey feels. With humor and language as ungainly as a thirteen-year-old boy, Soto describes one hot, magical weekend in a working-class town. Joey and Ronnie are charming characters who always have each others' best interests at heart even if they have a difficult time communicating their feelings to outsiders. Many animal metaphors, wild peripheral characters, and the boys' constant consumption of bananas give the story a sense of magical realism and drive home the idea that these boys sometimes feel like aliens in their own bodies. The short length and snappy dialogue make it a good choice for reluctant readers.
Children's Literature - Joella Peterson
Joey has been humiliated in front of hundreds of peopleCoach Bear called him a monkey at an athletic awards banquet after Joey climbed up into the rafters to get a balloon for Jessica, the girl he likes. In retaliation, Joey has climbed up into a tree, and claims that he won't come down. Ronnie (Joey's best friend) has taken it upon himself to try to get Joey down from the tree. Ronnie therefore goes around town, trying to get Coach to apologize to Joey, find Jessica, and dodge the town bullies. All the while Ronnie is trying to come to grips with the fact that he and Joey are, in fact, turning into teenagers, a.k.a. chimps (not monkeys like everyone says: "monkeys got tails, and they're not as smart"). With the constant mention of food and eating, the continuous worry about how he looks and smells, and the superhuman ability to climb up and fall off of multiple roofs without getting hurt, Ronnie does indeed remind you of a chimp. The multiple "chimps vs. humans" references will have readers wondering if this is in fact a subliminal message about Darwinism. This relatively short read will work well for those tweens who are noticing that they are growing up.
KLIATT - Ellen Welty
Thirteen-year-old Ronnie and his best friend Joey have suddenly become chimpanzeesa condition common to the young adolescent male. Their ears stick out, their noses have flattened and their arms are way too long for their legs. Not only that, they climb better than they walk. While serving refreshments at a school awards ceremony Joey is smitten with a girl who has won an award for gymnastics, inspiring him to climb to the rafters of the gymnasium to retrieve her balloon when it escapes. His heroics win a public dressing-down from the coach and in his embarrassment he decides to spend the rest of his life in a tree in his yard. It is up to Ronnie to save his friend. Gary Soto's voice is as true describing the plights and antics of teenage boys as it is describing the Chicano condition in his more serious work. The scene in which he describes the boys being sent to the faculty restroom to wash their hands before serving refreshments at the awards ceremony and, while there, spraying themselves with orange-scented air freshener is laugh-out-loud funny, but the humor is sympathetic. Ronnie successfully navigates the perils of playing Cupid, persuades the coach to apologize to Joey, handles school bullies without faltering and is transformed by the end of this easily read coming-of-age story. This book would be an excellent addition to public and school libraries serving junior high readers. Reviewer: Ellen Welty
School Library Journal
When friends Ronnie Gonzalez and Joey Rios turn 13, their arms suddenly seem to hang to their knees and their ears stick out. Ronnie finds himself juggling his fruit instead of eating it, and Joey is thrown off the wrestling team for hooting at his vanquished opponent. The boys agree-they've turned into chimps, just like lots of other young teens they've known. They're embarrassed by how gross they smell, how often they need to shower, and their strong interest in girls. For their simian behavior in class, the boys receive detention, and the coach puts them to work setting up the auditorium for a special assembly. There, Joey falls hard for an award-winning gymnast, and, during the ceremony, he climbs the rafters to rescue her lost balloon. When the coach berates him as she watches, he feels humiliated, runs home, climbs into the tree in his backyard, and won't come down. Ronnie tries to save his friend's reputation and gets into some adventures of his own. Mercy is a short, light novel with plenty of funny insights into what happens when puberty leaves a big banana peel in every adolescent male's path. The story is set in a Northern California town, but the messages it shares are universal.
Walter MinkelCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
This lighthearted, off-beat slice of life focuses on two (barely) teenaged boys. Narrated by 13-year-old Ronnie Gonzalez, the story revolves around his pal Joey's retreat to a tree after being humiliated in front of his first crush. Ronnie's efforts to track down the object of Joey's affection and bring the two together make up the bulk of the story that takes place over a weekend. Whether trying to help out the gruff coach from his school who is having marital problems or sympathizing with his hardworking mom, Ronnie has an engaging personality and a good heart. Without including any utterly unlikely events, Soto gives his story a touch of the fantastic that will appeal to young readers caught up in the angst of their own growing pains. The fact that both boys are Hispanic adds flavor to the tale without limiting its universal appeal. Some readers may tire of the extended comparison between teen boys and chimpanzees, but that's not to say that it doesn't have some merit. Breezy and entertaining. (Fiction. 11-14)