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MICHAEL SIMMONS lives in New York City. Pool Boy is his first novel for young adults.
When his father is arrested for insider trading and his family loses all their money, Brett Gerson takes a job as an assistant to a 70-something pool cleaner in his former wealthy California neighborhood and learns some valuable life lessons.
It's the elemental YA novel: the furious teen betrayed by adults has to make his own way. But this story is taken from today's business headlines. Brett's stockbroker dad is in jail for insider training, and the family is suddenly broke and disgraced. Unlike most stories about parents in prison, this first novel focuses on a spoiled brat, sorry that he won't be getting a car for his upcoming sixteenth birthday; bitter because, instead of sunning himself by the family pool, he has to spend the summer cleaning the pools of his former neighbors. He knows he is a brat and he glories in it. He is ugly to his dad when he is forced to visit him in prison, and he hurts his too-perfect mom. Of course, he learns his lesson, suffers real loss, and comes to know about backbreaking work and about forgiveness. What's best here is the teen's authentic, contemporary first-person voice, obnoxious in its self-absorption, funny in its self-mockery, and also vulnerable when real sadness blows the boy's cover.
School Library Journal
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.
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.
1. Brett’s friend Frank doesn’t seem to understand that Brett can’t spend money the way he used to. Have you ever had a friend or classmate who was clueless about your personal circumstances (like your financial situation or your family’s rules, for example)? Can you think of a situation in which you might have been insensitive to someone else?
2. You let your guard down, and they nail you. I wasn’t getting nailed. No way (p. 101).
How does Brett keep his guard up throughout the story? Is there a point at which he lets it down?
3. You’re looking for a solution. We’re human beings, after all.
We’re problem solvers (p. 143).
With these words, Brett describes his initial reaction to Alfie’s death. Do you agree that a human being’s first reaction to a problem is to try somehow to solve it? Can you describe your feelings at a time when you had to confront a problem that couldn’t be solved?
4. How does Alfie’s death change Brett’s perspective on his own life? Has anyone close to you died? Beyond the sadness at the time, did this death permanently affect the way you think about your life?
5. What does Brett mean by "a kind of love that doesn’t really come with a list" (p. 162)? Are there people in your life whom you love but don’t really like?
6. Mostly I’d respond by saying, "Mom, you’re like boring me out of my mind" (p. 44).
Brett is very blunt. How would you compare yourself to him in the way you talk with your family? Do you wish you could change the way you and your family communicate? What would be your ideal?
7. How do Brett and his sister differ in the way they react to their father’s imprisonment? How do they deal differently with anger (see p. 89)? How do you think you would respond in Brett’s situation?
8. Why does Brett decide to visit his father after Alfie dies?
Have you ever changed your relationship with a person because of an event that had nothing to do with that person?
9. Why is working with Alfie so much better than working at Fast Burger? In your opinion, what makes a job a good one?
10. Have you ever had a friend who wasn’t in your age group, as with Alfie and Brett? How was your friend’s perspective or way of life different from yours? What could you learn from each other?
Posted January 17, 2008
I read the book Pool Boy by Michael Simmons. This book was about a boy named Brett Gerson, who is fifteen years old, and is a spoiled rich kid that gets what ever he wants when ever he wants. This did not last long because Brett's dad owed the Government ten million dollars. his dad went to jail while Brett had to go live with his aunt because they lost all there money, there house, there car, everything they owned was gone. Brett is forced to find a job over the summer so they can get some more money. he starts working at a Burger place but does not like his boss. he quit from there and went into pool cleaning. there here meets a man named Alfie, who is his boss. in the pool cleaning business he starts to learn more stuff about life and how to see the real world.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 12, 2007
Posted June 26, 2007
I was extremly disappoined in this book. I did not enjoy it. I am certain that i have no favorite part in this book. I would not recommend this book to anybody because I thought it was boring and pointless.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 10, 2006
Pool Boy is a story about a rich, arrogant boy who tells it like it is. His name is Brett Gerson. When Brett¿s dad is sent to jail Brett, his mom, and his sister have to go live with their aunt. Brett has to get a summer job with a former 70 year old pool cleaner and he starts to notice life. One of the characters that I could relate to most was the main character Brett Gerson. Brett went through family and personal problems, He did keep his anger bottled up and never released it. His dad was in jail and he was so upset that he ended up calling him rude names. I felt this character was well-developed. Pool Boy is a very deep story that will keep you watching to read more. Go buy this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 23, 2005
'Not fairly, or pretty, or reasonably, but extremely. Extremely rich¿ 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.' Brett Gearson is a very spoiled, stuck up boy who¿s dad 'screwed up' everything for the family. He hates his dad and now he can barely deal with the fact that he has to get a job and they have to save money. Mr. Gearson made lots of money through insider trading and was caught, so now the family has no source of income. Michael Simmons does a very good job of including a humorous tone through the characters. Pool Boy is written in more of a simple language and teenage boys would most qualify for this read as the main character is male and 15 years old. I loved this book after reading the first two pages. You can understand Simmon¿s voice with ease and he does a fantastic job of using young language with humorous characters. - Gabe TovarWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 23, 2005
Pool Boy Review! By: Michael Simmons What would you do if your father was a millionaire, you were known as a rich kid, and all at once, it was flushed away? What I have just asked you is exactly what happened to 15 year old Brett one day after school. His father is convicted of insider trading, making him has to sell his mansion and move into his Aunts crummy house. Brett is forced to get a job, so he finds one at a fast food restaurant. After a couple weeks, Brett grows to hate this job, so he signs up for being an assistant pool cleaner for his old bus driver, Alfie, a 70 year old with tons of energy and enthusiasm. The only problem with having to do this job is that he is being humiliated by having to cleaning is friends, not to mention his own pool. Do you think that having this job with force Brett to forgive his dad for totally altering his life, Or do you think he will go on showing him hate or will he love him and accept him for who he is and his mistakes?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 23, 2005
Pool Boy Roaring Book Press, 2003, 164 pp.,$15.95 Michael Simmons ISBN 0-7613-1885-2 'I wish that I had a house and my $5000 thousand stereo. Ever since my tiresome dad got taken by the cops we had to live with my crazy aunt', Brett Gearson was a 14 year old boy who had it all a mansion, a Mercedes, and a $5000 stereo. That all got taken away when his dad got taken to jail because he owed the government 10 million dollars. Now that Brett has lost everything his family is forced to move. The author adds humor to the book by making Brett always mouth off to the boss. He also makes Brett seem really sweet when he is trying to impress Nicole. Frank is Brett¿s best friend. They want to throw a party to impress this girl named Nicole. Frank keeps telling Brett to go visit his dad, but Brett won¿t listen. Brett has to work as a pool boy and learns to save his money. I thought this was a great and funny book because it made me think of all the dumb things I did just like Brett is doing now. This book is recommended for kids that like humor and like to laugh. Also for kid who are the ages of 10 and up. - AjdinWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 4, 2004
This book was incredibly good. I enjoyed it alot. It was sad, emotional, and was a good lesson learned about life.Not to mention Brett's hilarious, sarcastic sense of humour. Spectacular debut for a new author in the Young Adult section.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.