Project Sweet Life

Project Sweet Life

4.5 7
by Brent Hartinger
     
 

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For most kids, fifteen is the year of the optional summer job: Sure, you can get a job if you really want one, but it isn't required or anything. Too bad Dave's dad doesn't agree! Instead of enjoying long days of biking, swimming, and sitting around, Dave and his two best friends are being forced by their fathers into a summer of hard labor.

The friends have

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Overview

For most kids, fifteen is the year of the optional summer job: Sure, you can get a job if you really want one, but it isn't required or anything. Too bad Dave's dad doesn't agree! Instead of enjoying long days of biking, swimming, and sitting around, Dave and his two best friends are being forced by their fathers into a summer of hard labor.

The friends have something else in mind, though: Not only will they not work over the summer, but they're determined to trick everyone into believing they really do have jobs. So what if the lifeguard doesn't have a tan or the fast-food worker isn't bringing home buckets of free chicken? There's only one problem: Dave's dad wants evidence that his son is actually bringing in money. And that means Dave, Curtis, and Victor will have to get some . . . without breaking the law and without doing any work!

Project Sweet Life is designed for the funny and lazy bone in all of us—a true comedy of errors (without any effort!) from seasoned storyteller Brent Hartinger.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
On the surface, Project Sweet Life is slacker fiction for young teens, a tale of truth, lies and consequences in which the reader is quickly apprised of what's at stake. Fifteen-year-old Dave (addressed by his long-suffering father as "Dave, Dave, Dave") does not want to get a summer job. Neither do his two best friends Victor and Curtis. The way Dave sees it, "Once you start, you can't stop, ever—not until you retire or you die." Naturally that dismal track is not where the friends want to be headed. Alas the trio's dads know each other and are unified in their conviction that work will build character in their sons. So Dave and his friends hatch a plot: they will pretend to get jobs, and instead will work on getting rich quick so they can show their fathers the money and still have the time to swim, ride bikes, and in general kick back and enjoy their summer. This comedy of errors builds quickly and surely, with each potential scheme ending in disaster yet spawning ever new possibilities. Hartinger is relentless in ramping up the tension on his young characters. He does so with wit and flair, moreover, building into the mix an episode from the racially troubled history of Tacoma, Washington, some particularly well-placed fortune cookies, and the matter-of-fact presence of a pair of gay uncles. The first-person narrative nails the teen protagonist's sensibility in a wry, self-deprecating voice that carries the reader along in this madcap leap from one obstacle to the next. Lovable, flawed and genuinely charming, Hartinger's characters drive the story, so that when Victor seems to be starving but it turns out he needs the chicken merely as proof of his purported employmentat KFC, we know things will only get worse. Some scenes, such as the one at the Evergreen Assisted Living Center, are pure magic. From the author of The Geography Club and Grand & Humble, here is a funny, realistic yet whimsical story delivered up with loving care. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
School Library Journal

Gr 6-9

Fifteen-year-old friends Dave, Victor, and Curtis are looking forward to a long summer of freedom. Much to their dismay, their fathers require them to get jobs. In an effort to salvage their vacation, the boys devise a plan: they will tell their dads that they are working and then figure out a get-rich-quick scheme. If all goes accordingly, they will earn money with little effort and have a relaxing time all to themselves. They dub their plan Project Sweet Life. What results is a hilarious story filled with mishaps, close calls, and outrageous adventures. Peppered with Dave's mom's strange culinary creations (fish stick stew, spaghetti meatloaf, canned-tuna tacos, anyone?), the plot is a bit far-fetched; however, it will keep readers laughing and engaged. The novel will be especially appealing to middle school boys, who will wish they could start their own Project Sweet Life.-Sarah K. Allen, Thetford Academy, VT

Kirkus Reviews
This old-fashioned boys' yarn's jaunty premise-that three 15-year-old boys can circumvent working at dreary summer jobs and instead make $7,000 (the amount they figure their wages would yield) fast so they can spend a leisurely summer spelunking, scuba diving, bike riding and swimming-takes a single chapter to set up. However, like the boys' various schemes, which flutter then fail, it takes forever for the story to develop narrative drive, and, in fact, the wheels don't start turning on their own until well into the second half. By then the three true-blue buddies, who are superficially but clearly differentiated, are in deep trouble. Although their ingenuity has kept them from getting caught by their parents, they're dead broke, and the summer, along with their earning opportunities, is rapidly drawing to a close. An exciting, on-the-edge-of-credible climax is followed by some heartfelt thoughts about the nature of friendship and the requisite life lessons. Despite the material's overall pleasantness and sturdy sense of place, it doesn't engage until far too late, at which time readers may well have lost interest. (Fiction. 12 & up)
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“An irresistable setting with humorous episodes tinged with mild danger, and a light–hearted mystery.”
The Horn Book
“The boys’ friendship, lightly and expertly depicted, drives the book, while their smartly plotted moneymaking schemes are creative, highjinks–filled, and hilariously almost effective.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"An irresistable setting with humorous episodes tinged with mild danger, and a light–hearted mystery."
ALA Booklist
“An amusing story with great teen appeal.”
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“An irresistable setting with humorous episodes tinged with mild danger, and a lighthearted mystery.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“An irresistable setting with humorous episodes tinged with mild danger, and a light–hearted mystery.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061973635
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/06/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
904,509
File size:
647 KB
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Project Sweet Life SNY

Chapter One

Week One: The Idea

"Dave," my dad said at dinner, "it's time you got yourself a summer job."

"What?" I said. The only reason I didn't choke on my spaghetti meat loaf is because he couldn't have said what I'd thought he said. True, it was the night before the first day of summer vacation. But I was only fifteen years old. For most kids, fifteen is the year of the optional summer job: You can get one if you really want one, but it isn't required. And I really, really didn't want one.

My dad is a real man's man, a straight-backed guy with a buzz cut and a deep rumble of a voice. For him, things are always very black-and-white.

"It's definitely time you got a job," he repeated, gnawing on the meat loaf like a grizzly bear. "Get out in the world, meet some up-and-comers. After all, you are who you surround yourself with." This last part was something my dad was always saying—something about birds of a feather and all that.

But even now I didn't choke on my food, because I was still certain he was kidding about my getting a job. Even if in the weirdest reaches of some wild, alternate universe where my father suddenly did think I should get a job the summer of my fifteenth year, even he wasn't so cruel as to bring it up on the night before the start of my vacation.

"Yeah, right," I said, taking another bite. "How about superspy? Between shadowing drug runners in South American nightclubs and cracking safes in Monaco casinos, I'll still be able to sleep in."

My dad sighed. "Dave, Dave, Dave," he said. This was his standard expression ofdisappointment in me. "It's high time you stop relying on your mother and me for money. This is the summer you start paying your own way in life. No more allowance for you. This is the summer you get a job."

Now I choked on my spaghetti meat loaf! Not only was my dad forcing me to get a summer job, he was also stopping my allowance?

"But, Dad!" I said. "I'm only fifteen!"

"What does that have to do with anything?" he said.

I tried to explain how fifteen was the summer of the optional summer job. "Says who?" my dad said.

"Says everyone!" I said. "That's just the way it works! It's probably in the Bible somewhere. Or maybe the U.S. Constitution."

"I don't think so."

I looked at my mom, but she was blankly sipping her raspberry-mango juice blend. It was clear I wasn't going to get any help from her.

"Well, it should be," I said.

My dad just kept wolfing down the spaghetti meat loaf.

Before I go too far on this, I need to explain how I feel about work in general and summer jobs in particular. I don't want anyone thinking I am some sort of anti-American or anti-work deadbeat.

I believe in work. Without it, civilization collapses: Buildings don't get built, pipes stay clogged, breath mints would go unstocked. Personally, I like it when I use the public restroom and find that the toilet paper dispenser has been refilled.

I also believe in the idea that the harder you work, the more you should get paid. You're too tired to work? Well, then I guess you're also too tired to eat.

Work is important. I get that.

That said, I do work. Hard. At school, for ten months every year. Unlike a lot of people my age, I take school very seriously. My eighth-grade report on Bolivia was as comprehensive as anything in The New York Times Almanac. One of my freshman English essays was almost frighteningly insightful into the significance of those worn steps at the school in A Separate Peace.

And, yes, I certainly understand that some people, even some fifteen-year-olds, need to work. They're saving for college, or they have to help pay bills around the house. For them, a summer job at fifteen isn't optional. But my dad makes a good living as a land surveyor. He wears silk ties! And my mom is stay-at-home. We aren't poor.

The adults won't tell you this, but I absolutely knew it in my bones to be true: Once you take that first summer job, once you start working, you're then expected to keep working. For the rest of your life! Once you start, you can't stop, ever—not until you retire or you die.

Sure, I knew I'd have to take a job next summer. But now, I had two uninterrupted months of absolute freedom ahead of me—two summer months of living life completely on my own terms. I knew they were probably my last two months of freedom for the next fifty years.

The point is, dad or no dad, I was going to be taking a job the summer of my fifteenth year over my dead body.

"My dad is making me get a summer job," said my best friend Victor Medina later that night. "And he's stopping my allowance."

"You're kidding!" said my other best friend, Curtis Snow. "So is mine!"

We'd met in the old bomb shelter in Curtis's backyard after dinner. The shelter had been dug in the early 1960s but had been abandoned until Curtis had talked his parents into letting him, Victor, and me turn it into our own personal hideaway. And what a hideaway! We'd brought in carpet, a really plush couch, and these giant oversize floor pillows. We'd also wired in electricity from the house, which let us add things like a little refrigerator, a movie-style popcorn popper, even a flat-screen television and game system—all top-notch stuff that we'd picked up at bargain prices at garage sales and on eBay. Even Curtis's parents didn't know about everything we had hoarded in there, mostly because we'd long since installed a thick lock on the door, designed to be so secure that it would even keep out panicky neighbors clawing to get inside after the launch of a nuclear missile, and no one knew the combination except us.

Project Sweet Life SNY. Copyright © by Brent Hartinger. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Brent Hartinger has been a full-time author for many years, writing novels, plays, and screenplays. He lives in Washington State. Among his books are Geography Club and its sequel, The Order of the Poison Oak, as well as The Last Chance Texaco and Split Screen. Like Dave and his friends, as a teenager he resisted getting a job for as long as possible but finally was forced by his parents to go to work as a lifeguard at age sixteen. He still smells like coconut sunblock.

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