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My Chemical Mountain

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“A gritty, surprising story that confronts important personal and social issues head-on.” —Tim Tharp, author of The Spectacular Now

Jason and his friends live for the rush of racing their dirt bikes on Chemical Mountain and swimming in chunky orange Two Mile Creek. But they hate wealthy and powerful Mareno Chem, the company responsible for invading their territory, polluting...

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My Chemical Mountain

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“A gritty, surprising story that confronts important personal and social issues head-on.” —Tim Tharp, author of The Spectacular Now

Jason and his friends live for the rush of racing their dirt bikes on Chemical Mountain and swimming in chunky orange Two Mile Creek. But they hate wealthy and powerful Mareno Chem, the company responsible for invading their territory, polluting their town, and killing Jason’s father. The boys want to get even. But revenge has a price—and more than one person will pay.
Winner of the Thirtieth Annual Delacorte Press Prize for a First YA Novel
“Reminiscent of The Outsiders. . . . Dark and unflinching.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Angry and urgent, topical and timely.” —Booklist
“There is power and hope . . . Jason’s coming-of-age tale, though dark, is full of both.” —The Horn Book Magazine
“Grim but impressive debut.” —Publishers Weekly
“There’s a little something for all readers in this well-thought-out, well-executed story.” —School Library Journal
“The scenes, the attitudes, the desperation are brilliantly rendered.” —The Tonawanda News
“Corina Vacco shows us real-life monsters, up close and very personal.” —Ellen Klages, author of The Green Glass Sea

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Vacco’s grim but impressive debut, winner of the Delacorte Press Prize, occasionally stumbles on its own sense of bleakness and the extreme complacency of its characters, but lyrical prose and strong characters make it worth the read. In the town of Poxton—imagine the exaggerated pollution of Springfield from The Simpsons without any of the humor—14-year-olds Jason and Charlie drink orange water from Two Mile Creek and investigate the landfill they’ve nicknamed Chemical Mountain, collecting mutated fish and other samples of pollution. Since local employment relies on Mareno Chemical, few are willing to challenge the company, even as most of the town shows the effect of toxic dumping. The “we can’t lose our jobs” attitude works to a point, but the over-the-top nature of the pollution makes the adult conspiracy of silence difficult to swallow. Never-theless, the push by the boys and their tech genius friend Cornpup to get people to acknowledge the horrors Mareno has inflicted on Poxton (which mirror the real-life environmental pollution that inspired Vacco) should help readers think hard about the issue. Ages 14–up. (June)
Children's Literature - Elizabeth Young
Imagine a place far from view, yet close enough to smell—and if the weather is right, taste—the spoil and garbage of a large chemical plant. This is where Jason, Charlie, and Cornpup do their best planning, dreaming, and bonding. Jason's father has died and his mother has eaten herself into a gastric stupor. Cornpup's back is covered with reptilian-esque bumps and scars. Charlie lives for thrills: dirt bikes, bonfires, often almost going too far. All three blame Marino Chem for ruining their families and their lives. Yet this is not a story of revenge, it is a story of renewal and release. The characters are well-developed, and readers will feel connected to each. Vacco presents these three young men on the verge of high school quite realistically, yet with a maturity that seems to come from dealing with way too many life issues. Readers will be able to relate to the families, the boys, and even Viper, the dog, at all levels, making this a great assigned reading novel, and a springboard for activities. In fact, the author encourages sharing pollution images, stories, and poetry with her. Just be warned, as in happens in the real world, not everyone in this story has a happy ending. Reviewer: Elizabeth Young
Kirkus Reviews
If the local chemical plant killed your father and used your backyard as a dumping ground, you'd want revenge, too. With an opening scene featuring powerful rain, sulfur in the wind and "steamy chemical sludge," the overwritten dystopian novel immediately comes to mind. But this gritty debut depicts the reality of a toxic town. Fourteen-year-old narrator Jason's father died in an "accident" after speaking out against the chemical plant that rules the town, and his mother has turned to food for comfort. It is his quest to take down the chemical plant. Also hungry for revenge are friends Charlie and Cornpup, who also bear the scars the chemical plant has left on the town. Reminiscent of The Outsiders (and not just because of Cornpup's unusual name), the story concentrates on the boys' tight bond and how they both embrace and fight against the danger in their lives. The most stunning part of the story remains the visceral descriptions ("a trail of green puddles that never dry up; a rusty railcar full of weird, smelly rocks; and a perfect square of earth where you can dig for hours without seeing a single insect") that ooze throughout. The teens' Freak Museum, filled with mutated animals, equally repels and fascinates. Because of these strengths, the abrupt ending is disappointing, but it does not discount the story as a compelling read. Dark and unflinching. (Fiction. 14 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Jason is about to enter high school with his two best friends, dangerously confident football star Charlie Pellitero and cautious and sickly William "Cornpup" Schumacher. They live in a town all but owned by the overarching and ominous company Mareno Chem, and their noxious playgrounds are waste-coated landfills. Whether it's swimming in the polluted Two Mile Creek or dirt biking up Chemical Mountain, there's no part of Poxton that doesn't belong to them. Jason needs the distraction. Following his father's death in an accident at the plant that employs most of the town, his mother has taken to overeating. Jason can barely look at her or talk to her about anything important anymore. While the promise of a first love with girl-next-door Val is a strong possibility, there's also the looming threat of local bully Kevin Thompson, who's vowed to beat Jason up. When a town meeting gives Cornpup the chance to show off the cysts covering his back and a forum to speak out against Mareno Chem for poisoning his family and friends, a shift occurs among the three boys. This debut novel, with its detailed descriptions of the toxic landscape and dangerous antics, will likely draw male readers in, but a budding romance and subtle insight into Jason's changing relationship with his friends guarantee that there's a little something for all readers in this well-thought-out, well-executed story.—Ryan P. Donovan, New York Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385742429
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 6/11/2013
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 694,389
  • Age range: 12 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

CORINA VACCO makes her writing debut with My Chemical Mountain.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 22, 2013

    MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN, a Delacorte Press Prize winner for a debut

    MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN, a Delacorte Press Prize winner for a debut YA, by Corina Vacco is a good companion book for middle-grade Newbery winner M.C. HIGGINS by Virginia Hamilton. The primary three male characters in MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN are 13 or 14; the time frame is prior to their freshman year. Everything in the book is age-appropriate for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12), yet is compelling and deep enough for YA readers (ages 13-18).

    Both novels also address environmental issues, such as toxic waste dumps. But never in a heavy-handed way. All of the characters in MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN are well-rounded and the boys are realistic in attitudes and actions.

    I don't want to give away any spoilers, so let me just say that MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN would make an excellent book to use in the classroom.

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    Posted July 7, 2013

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    Posted June 29, 2013

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