Overview

Earl doesn’t want to be a bully. It’s not his fault that his body is as big as a football player’s!Thirteen-year-old middle-schooler Earl has the body and facial scruff of a man—and this gets him into trouble. Everyone thinks Earl’s a tough guy, but he’s just trying to get by. Thinking he knows what’s right from wrong—and using his fists to prove his point—earns him a week’s suspension from school. Earl thinks he’ll have a relaxing week, but things soon slip out of his control when his home life starts to fall ...
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Who the Man

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Overview

Earl doesn’t want to be a bully. It’s not his fault that his body is as big as a football player’s!Thirteen-year-old middle-schooler Earl has the body and facial scruff of a man—and this gets him into trouble. Everyone thinks Earl’s a tough guy, but he’s just trying to get by. Thinking he knows what’s right from wrong—and using his fists to prove his point—earns him a week’s suspension from school. Earl thinks he’ll have a relaxing week, but things soon slip out of his control when his home life starts to fall apart. He may be as big as a grown-up, but Earl will learn that being a man means more than how you look on the outside.

Thirteen-year-old Earl Pryor is much too big for his age, and much too powerful for the anger that rages within him when classmates tease him, the girl he likes disappoints him, or his parents' problems get too real.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Through a 13-year-old boy's first-person narration, Lynch lays bare the pivotal period in adolescence when the world changes from the black-and-white simplicity of childhood innocence to the gray area of adulthood," said PW in a starred review. Ages 10-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
There are kids like Lynch's Earl in middle schools all across America—slow, big, their bodies growing faster than their vocabularies, trying in vain to puzzle their way through the world's inequities. People seek Earl out for fights, and often he obliges. But deep down inside, he wouldn't hurt a fly. He spends an inordinate amount of time afflicted by remorse and governed by a growing list of Shaltnots. The first-person narrative plays out against a range of surreal settings, from the corner store where Earl and funny little Bobby Norton go reliably each Saturday for their cream soda and juice box respectively, to an abandoned church that is practically beautiful in its decay. Then there are Earl's parents, their relationship plagued by growing dissonance; Louisa, whom Earl is starting to see with new eyes; and the young toughs she has taken to hanging with. They see Earl, big as he is, as the opportunity for a quick dodge around the law. All this is a full plate for a thirteen-year-old, and to be honest, one sometimes forgets that Earl is that young. "Politely invited to stay away" from school, his days seem to go from agonizing crawl to frantic fast-forward. In the end, an overwhelming inner sense of justice, clashing headlong with the realities that life dishes up, leads him with a jolt (or perhaps it's a "jolt-jolt") to the possibility of hope. The Shaltnots are not replaced, exactly, but a certain perspective begins to dawn. "Because four-three is about as even as you're ever going to get, in a life divided up in sevens." 2002, HarperCollins,
— Uma Krishnaswami
VOYA
"Seeing and being seen. Why is it not that simple? Somebody sees me and sees a man. Somebody sees me and sees a boy. Somebody sees me not at all." One of Earl Pryor's biggest problems is how other people perceive him. To his parents, he is a beloved son who can do no wrong. To his classmates, he is a hulking giant, a freak, the "biggest thirteen year old you ever saw." Because of his size, Earl seems to always find himself being provoked into fighting. Earl usually wins these bouts, his fists fueled by frustration because of his lack of control-whether over his height, his parents' dysfunctional marriage, or the feelings he has for his sixteen-year-old former babysitter Louisa. Earl gets through his days by following his own strict code. "Rules. Keep your rules. Never, never let people in. People destroy." Nevertheless, everything changes when he is suspended for fighting, and the comforting order of school is removed from his schedule. Adrift at home, Earl makes several unwelcome discoveries about himself and his family that finally lead him to the knowledge that absolute principles of right and wrong simply do not exist. More accessible than the critically acclaimed Freewill (HarperCollins, 2001/VOYA August 2001), this novel is reminiscent of Lynch's now woefully out of print Blood Relations series about tough-boy Mick. Earl will be understood and cheered on by teen readers who share his aggravation at the lack of control in their own young lives. His story would be an excellent selection for book discussion groups. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined asgrades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, HarperCollins,
— Jennifer Hubert <%ISBN%>0066239389
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-At 13, Earl is bigger and physically more mature than the other kids in his school, and he doesn't hesitate to use violence to handle conflicts. His tough-talking father actually eggs him on and encourages him to take care of himself. The novel follows a week in the boy's life after he has been suspended from school for fighting. In a rhythmic first-person narration, Lynch gets inside the head of the type of student who exists in many schools-the misunderstood kid whose confusion and anger gets him pegged as a brute and a bully, yet hidden beneath are layers of sensitivity, vulnerability, and loneliness. Readers are privy to Earl's confused thoughts about his parents, religion, his one friend, and an older girl on whom he has a crush. During that same week, he shows the first inklings of a new understanding of the world, learning that most situations are not black and white, and right and wrong are not defined in terms of absolutes. Things come to a head when Earl spots his father with another woman. In a conclusion that seems somewhat hurried and jumps ahead in time, he is last seen adjusting to his parents' divorce and is beginning to understand himself better. While there isn't much story here, the novel successfully captures the nuances of Earl's character, and is superbly written.-Todd Morning, Schaumburg Township Public Library, IL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The bittersweet story of Earl's week of school suspension, told from inside his mind, is heavy with pain and love. Earl is 13, big and physically mature enough to be mistaken for a man, but weighed down with emotional burdens: the hatred and hostility between his parents, for example, and his own alienation from children his age. His tendency to punch people gets him suspended from school; however, the overall feeling in Earl’s life is not anger but a profound emotional ache. Earlier in life, Earl might have felt freer and easier, before the coldness and silence between his parents (who are unswervingly committed to him but literally won’t speak to each other) and back when Louisa was his babysitter rather than a girl he loves and who insists she’s too old for him. It also seems that Earl’s physical growth is inextricably related to his alienation from his peers, but those specifics are never explored. The perspective keeps readers close to Earl’s point of view, sometimes cryptically; however, not a word is wasted, and an accessible narrative style leaves Earl’s story and deep emotions open to readers of varying levels. Most special are relationships with the three people who love Earl fiercely: Dad, who rubs bristly cheeks with him and smells like cigarettes in a way Earl loves; Moms, who cooks him hearty soups and tucks him into bed; and little Bobby Norton, another outcast peer, stubbornly committed to their friendship. Sad, tender, and finally hopeful. (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781480404571
  • Publisher: Open Road Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/26/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 186
  • Sales rank: 1,139,261
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Chris Lynch (b. 1962), a Boston native, is an award-winning author of several acclaimed young adult novels, including Freewill (2001), which won the Michael L. Printz Honor, and National Book Award finalist Inexcusable (2005). Lynch holds an MA from the writing program at Emerson College, and teaches in the creative writing MFA program at Lesley University. He mentors aspiring writers and continues to work on new literary projects while splitting time between Boston and Scotland.

Chris Lynch (b. 1962), a Boston native, is an award-winning author of several acclaimed young adult novels, including Freewill (2001), which won the Michael L. Printz Honor, and National Book Award finalist Inexcusable (2005). Lynch holds an MA from the writing program at Emerson College, and teaches in the creative writing MFA program at Lesley University. He mentors aspiring writers and continues to work on new literary projects while splitting time between Boston and Scotland.   

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First Chapter

Who the Man

Chapter One

Big Man

Right and wrong is a simple deal, and everybody knows it. As long as you have all the facts, right and wrong make themselves very clear to you. If you really want to know.

Don't ever be a rat. You don't fink. It's not right. No matter what, you don't fink, and you don't complain. It's just not what you do. It's just not right.

And don't lie. Don't lie, don't fink, don't complain.

I try not to complain. But what can you do sometimes? Times like these times. Times like these days -- and these days, they are all like these days. Deep dark cold night-all-day winter days that won't give you a break, ever. On these days, I find myself at school, or on my way to school, before I even realize that I am awake, that I have gotten up and eaten and dressed and all prior to finding myself where I am. It's as if I have woken up right on the pavement in mid-stride or in my seat waiting for class to begin, or like I never even slept at all but am still walking through yesterday and the day before because they are really all just one long dark restless winter day that won't give you a break.

Days like that, like these, they just make you feel angry the whole time. Like somebody somewhere is pulling something on you, but you can't quite put your finger on who. And you really want to put a finger on him.

By the time I become aware of things today, I am delivering milk. I am the milkman today. We have a milk program here, and we all get the chance to deliver the milk on a special trolley all around school when it's our turn. The milk company comes by and drops the stuff off at the back door where it sits and freezes in the tiny little cartons that are stacked up inside the plastic-cube carrier crates that are then stacked up on top of each other in a tower as tall as me. it's a lot of milk and a fair-size school, so two kids from our class get the assignment each week, one taking the rooms on the east side of the corridor and the other the west until everybody has milk. It's a chunk out of class time, a bite out of the boring day, so most people love to do it.

I don't. I don't feel like seeing any people today. Now I get to see everybody. At least everybody on the east side of the corridor.

"Well well well well," says Mrs. Sanderson, the firstgrade teacher, as I wheel my stupid squeaky cart into her classroom. I always get the stupid squeaky-wheel cart when it's my turn, and I don't know how that is, why that is. Somebody has to be rigging things, and I'm going to find out. They could at least oil the wheels, but they don't. And Derek, who's the other milk Dud with me, even the law of averages would say that he'd get the squeaky wheels sometimes. But never. And he's always pulling stuff like this. He's never left with the blunt scissors that make your artwork look like you've been biting it off instead of cutting it. He never gets to the pencil sharpener when it's so full of shavings it's puking up curly bits all over the place. These things don't happen to just anybody, and they don't happen by accident. I am going to find out about this. No slipping into or out of any classrooms unnoticed when you have this stupid squeaky cart, and that stinks. I just want to be quiet and unnoticed and go about my --

"Class!" Mrs. Sanderson says with so much enthusiasm you would think the Christmas break was just ahead instead of lying dead in the snow behind us. "Class, do you see this big strapping man right here?"

Of course they see me, Mrs. Sanderson. You kind of made it impossible not to see me even if it was possible not to see me, which it's probably not, even if they didn't want to see me, which they probably didn't, and even if I didn't want to be seen, which I definitely did not.

But I like her anyway. I have liked her all the time.

"This fine strapping tower of a man," she says, frogmarching me away from my stupid squeaky cart to the front of her class, "was once right in here, where you children are now sitting. Can you believe it?"

Their innocent little first-grade faces say they cannot believe it. I must look like a tree to them. They must have thought that milk came from trees.

Mrs. Sanderson has an arm around me. That is, she has a hand on my shoulder as she stretches to try and drape an arm over me. She's really little. And really proud. As if she is somehow responsible for the size of me. As if the size of me is something to be proud of, anyway.

"He used to fit in one of those desks like you children are sitting in right now."

The kids all wriggle now, and murmur, stretching around them to look at their own legs under those desks, to try and see their own little backsides on those connected seats. Like there is some kind of answer there, to the physical wonder of me.

"So," Mrs. Sanderson says, giving my shoulder a last extra pat, "make sure, all of you, that you drink our milk up, to grow straight and strong just like big Earl Pryor."

I could break up that stupid squeaky cart, right now into five million pieces. Break it right over that rat Derek's head.

Like it or not -- and the answer is not -- I have a job to do, and when I have a job to do, it gets done. But it gets no better.

It almost scares me, the quiet slashed apart by my squeaky wheels in the big open empty corridor of the school. The ceiling is high, the floor is checkerboard black and white, and the silences are silent and the noises exaggerated. I want to be alone, and I can't. I want to be unknown, and I can't. Every step I take, with its accompanying trailing sound track, makes my heart beat a beat faster, makes my hands mad so that they squeeze the handle of the trolley just that much harder, so my own effort is making my fingers redder than even the frozen milk did. My stomach feels so hard and tense you could bounce a cannonball off it.

Who the Man. Copyright © by Chris Lynch. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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