Pool Boy

Pool Boy

4.3 8
by Michael Simmons

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Fifteen-year-old Brett Gerson is the kind of kid you love to hate. He's smug, arrogant, rude, and filthy rich. When his dad is jailed for insider trading, his family loses everything and Brett has to face life without the mansion, the Mercedes, and his beloved $5,000 stereo. But his attitude begins to change when he's forced to take a summer job assisting Alfie Moore,…  See more details below


Fifteen-year-old Brett Gerson is the kind of kid you love to hate. He's smug, arrogant, rude, and filthy rich. When his dad is jailed for insider trading, his family loses everything and Brett has to face life without the mansion, the Mercedes, and his beloved $5,000 stereo. But his attitude begins to change when he's forced to take a summer job assisting Alfie Moore, the seventy-year old guy who used to clean his swimming pool . . .

Told in the first person and set in a fictional California town, POOL BOY marks the debut of a gifted young writer, Michael Simmons, and of one of the most engaging and infuriating anti-heroes since Holden Caulfield.

MICHAEL SIMMONS lives in New York City. Pool Boy is his first novel for young adults.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Rookie novelist Simmons has really nailed it in this engaging first-person narrative of a 15-year-old Californian boy fallen on hard times.
Publishers Weekly
In a starred review, PW wrote, "A compelling narrator will keep readers riveted to this first novel, about a former rich kid who must adjust to life literally `on the wrong side of the tracks' after his father is arrested for insider trading." Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
15-year-old Brett Gerson's life has been ruined. His father, who made millions as a stockbroker, has been sent to jail, and life as Brett knew it has come to an end. Now, instead of lounging beside the family pool, he is cleaning them. Their home and possessions have been sold and he, his mother and sister live with his Aunt Mary. It is Alfie Moore, the man who owns the pool cleaning service, who subtly helps Brett change from a cocky teen who feels he has been cheated out of the things he deserves to a person who begins to understand what is important in life. Alfie, who is in his seventies, has a garden and cans his own produce. He even lets Brett borrow the van to take his driving test. When Alfie suffers a fatal heart attack, Brett begins to see the importance of family relationships, and begins trying to improve the one he has with his father. Simmons captures the teen personality here and maintains it throughout the story. Brett can be both an infuriating and sympathetic character. The other characters come alive as well. The story never becomes maudlin. It is realistic in its approach and will strike a chord with many teens. 2003, A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press, Ages 12 to 15.
— Sharon Salluzzo
Fifteen-year-old Brett grew up rich-expensive stereo systems, fancy houses, and luxurious cars were always at his disposal. Everything changes, however, when his father is jailed for inside trading and the family moves to "the wrong side of the tracks." Now Brett works after school, endures the humiliation of losing his rich-boy status, and reluctantly visits his father in jail. His anger with his father puts additional stress on the fragile family. When Alfie, the free-spirited, elderly pool cleaner, offers him a job, Brett unexpectedly finds a mentor to help him through difficult times. Told in the first person, this novel is a conventional coming-of-age story despite the rather unconventional setting. Brett's life is fairly normal, despite his change in circumstances, and he experiences unrequited love, the joy of getting his driver's license, the pain of losing a loved one, and other rites of passage during the course of the summer. Thanks to Alfie's wisdom, Brett also learns the importance of forgiveness and making sound choices. He is an engaging character with an authentic voice, although some observations-"my sister was crying softly" and "My mom gave me one of her looks of quiet desperation"-do not quite ring true. The secondary characters, although meant to be colorful, lack enough depth to be believable. Nevertheless, Brett's story will interest readers looking for a quick, undemanding read. Short sentences, uncomplicated dialogue, and lots of white space will appeal to older reluctant readers. The almost fairy-tale ending and Brett's maturation over the summer will please those looking for a satisfying conclusion. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P J S (Readable without serious defects; Willappeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Roaring Brook, 160p,
— Judy Sasges
Brett used to lead the good life, residing in a mansion with a
— Paula Rohrlick
Insider trading. Brett Gerson remembers their rip-off lawyer saying that was why his father has been dragged off to jail. Yet, what really irked him was when they lost the house....his house, the pool, the Mercedes, and his brand new $5,000 stereo system. Brett struggles to adjust to life across the tracks, where he now lives with his aunt. His mom makes him get a job, and Brett soon finds himself cleaning his friends' pool with Alfie Moore, an eccentric 70-year old. Will his friends, and most importantly, the girl of his dreams, like him now that he is poor? Author Michael Simmons challenges the reader to decide what really matters, and raises the issue of anger, family, and forgiveness. Pool Boy is a fast and entertaining read that won't lose you in its depths, but to be sure, it isn't shallow water. 2003, Simon and Schuster, 164 pp., Ages young adult.
—Dan Reinhold
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Brett, 15, had it all: good looks, a winning personality, and a lot of money. That is, until the police busted his dad for money laundering and insider trading. Now the teen's posh lifestyle-like his dad-has gone to the dogs, and Brett, his mom, and sister move into their great-aunt's humble two-story on the other side of the tracks. Forced to help out in making ends meet, the teen takes a job cleaning pools in his old upscale neighborhood. With surprisingly sharp insight for a first novel, Simmons doesn't bat an eyelash in forcing his arrogantly smug antihero to combat a truckload of issues involving his new life in a lower-income bracket. Dubbed "pool boy" by the new owners of the house that his own family lost, Brett stubbornly comes to terms with forgiving his father for being a criminal and losing the family fortune. What results from Simmons's dead-on characterization in this well-told first-person account is a humorous yet thought-provoking journey through the life and mind of a self-centered young man who must now reconsider his own sense of responsibility to rebuild the life torn apart by his father's crimes.-Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Brett Gerson has it tough: fabulously rich for 15 years, his life is capsized when his father is jailed for insider trading. "[I]f you go from the life of leisure that I once had," says Brett, "to the life of toil and drudgery that I have now, it’s very, very hard." That toil and drudgery consists of a move to his eccentric aunt’s house on the wrong side of the tracks and a job cleaning rich people’s pools with Alfie. The relationship that builds between the elderly, bus-driving, pool-cleaning free spirit and the spoiled, selfish teen is a marvel to watch unfold. Brett’s voice never softens, but readers will catch on that his wiseass commentary is in part a façade to conceal honest-to-goodness emotion. When Alfie meets with a medical emergency, that emotion comes flooding out. It’s no mean feat, rendering a character who is both detestable and sympathetic; Simmons has done this, and hilariously so, his first time out. (Fiction. 12+)
From the Publisher
“With surprisingly sharp insight for a first novel, Simmons doesn’t bat an eyelash in his forcing his arrogantly smug antihero to combat a truckload of issues.”–School Library Journal, Starred

A Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year

A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age

Product Details

Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:
The Roman Mysteries Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.73(d)
650L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

It's like this. I used to be one of those kids who could coast through life without having to do any of the unpleasant things most people have to do. I'm fairly smart, pretty athletic, and some have even told me I'm reasonably handsome. The key to the cushy life I used to lead was that I also used to be rich. Not fairly, or pretty, or reasonably, but extremely. Extremely rich. All that changed one day when cops and guys in suits showed up at my house and told my dad that he was in big trouble and that he owed the U.S. government ten million dollars.

Dad tried to run. He pushed one of the cops and tried to make a getaway out the back. It's actually funny when you think about it. Eight armed cops and my dad tries to outrun them through the kitchen. He got as far as the stove before a bald guy they called Pointy tackled him to the ground. I guess it wasn't funny at the time, what with my mom and my sister crying hysterically and my dad's face bleeding. But it's sure funny now, now that it's over and now that I hate him.

My mother says that Dad's a different kind of criminal. He's a white-collar criminal, which she says means he didn't really hurt anyone. (Anyone but me, I always say.) But they still threw him in jail. Our rip-off artist of a lawyer said he'd be in less trouble if he hadn't tried to run.

The thing is that Dad never really acted like a criminal. He laughed a lot, always kept his hair neatly combed, always wore a suit and tie, blah blah blah. And he had a smile that made you trust him, made you think everything would be all right. He even cried when they finally carted him off. That's something you never see in the movies—a bad guy who cries when the cops nab him. That was a rough thing to see. That was probably the hardest thing of all—watching Dad cry as cops threw him into the back of a squad car. Don't get me wrong. Right now, I hate the guy. But that was rough.

But enough about him. He blew it and now he has to live with it. So let me tell you what's really unfair: the fact that I, an entirely innocent human being, had to give up my easy life. I know, plenty of people live happy lives without being loaded. But if you go from the life of leisure that I once had, to the life of toil and drudgery that I have now, it's very, very hard.

My mom even forced me to get a job. She said I needed to start a college fund. Let me tell you what I really need: my old life back. That's it. I don't need college and I don't need a job. I need a house with a pool, and an expensive stereo, and a beach house. Just so I'm clear, let me say that I now have none of these things.

It's not like I thought I'd never have to work. But I planned to put it off until after I went to business school. And I even imagined that I might have to scrimp and save a bit. My best friend, Frank, and I were planning a trip to Mexico for the summer after we graduated from high school. We were going to live by our wits, sleep on the beach, surf all day, and catch fish for dinner. Maybe we'd live like that forever. Never come home. Now life on the cheap doesn't seem so exciting.

When my dad was first carted off, my family tried to be hush-hush about it. "We have to keep up appearances," my mother kept saying. My sister and I continued going to school, playing sports, attending class dances like nothing had happened. My mother even decided to go ahead with an addition we were building on our house. "We don't want people to think anything's wrong," she said. But when a huge article about my father was finally plastered on the front page of the Glenwood Times, people didn't have to spend time wondering what was up with the Gerson family. It was all there in black and white.

After our contractor read the story, he told my mom he was going to bill her for the work he had already done on the addition. He said he billed all his customers this way—bit by bit. My mom was pretty mad after he left. "He's never billed anyone like that in his life," she yelled. "He just wants to make sure he gets his money."

Guess what. She was right. He did want to get his money. And he was right to be worried, cause we haven't paid him a dime. We still owe him. Now the beautiful, happy suburb of Glenwood, California, knows that the Gersons are a bunch of welchers.

"Can't you ask your grandparents for money?" my best friend Frank asked one afternoon by his pool after I finally told him what was going on.

"My grandparents?" I said. "Two are dead and the other two live in Maine and haven't got a nickel. The only one in my family who ever got rich was my dad."

Getting rich was, in fact, something Dad took lots of pride in. He loved to talk about how he was a big-time stockbroker and made lots of money. "Gerson boy makes good," he used to say every time he bought something big. He said it the time he bought a boat, the time he drove home a new Mercedes, and the day he bought our beach house.

He doesn't say it now.

"You must have some money somewhere," Frank said, after thinking it over for a few minutes.

I wanted to hit him. But I forgave him for this stupid remark because it's exactly what I said over and over to my mother.

"We must have some money somewhere," I kept saying. But she only shook her head.

"I know this is hard for you to understand," she told me. "It's hard for me to understand. But even after we sell everything we have, we're still in debt. We've got nothing." She said this and then started crying for the hundred-and-fiftieth time. Funny, after watching your mother cry one hundred and fifty times, it doesn't get any easier. It always hurts. And I'm sure it'll hurt after I see it for the thousandth time.

Meet the Author

Michael Simmons lives in New York City. This is his first young adult novel.

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