Thursday, September 15, 2016

Memoirs of a Sidekick

Memoirs of a Sidekick
by David Skuy
Recommended Ages: 12+

Seventh-grader Adrian is a bright, socially awkward boy who is happy playing second fiddle to his good-natured best friend, Boris Snodbuckle. Together, the two of them get into non-stop trouble, usually where the best intentions collide with poor judgment. Constantly receiving detention and one-day suspensions at school, the boys try to adhere to a code that includes such rules as Rule 1, "Don't break school rules, unless there's a really good reason," and Rule 5, "Don't tell on kids - ever - unless you're getting them out of trouble." They want to make their school a better place, and they worry about what will happen when the school's biggest bully, handsome and popular Robert Pinsent, is elected student body president. So Boris decides to run against him, and Adrian tags along for the ride.

A wild ride it is, with brash schemes - actually, code-named operations - to capture the votes of younger kids, tree-huggers, brainiacs, the artsy types, and the popular kids. Thanks partly to bad luck, and partly to Robert's unprincipled ruthlessness, each operation ends either in mayhem, with Boris and Adrian getting suspended again, or worse, in Robert stealing the credit for their success. Usually both. But when the boys decide to crash a conference on feeding hungry children, things really get out of hand, and Adrian finds himself in the rare position of having to take the initiative.

This story featuring two mischief-makers with hearts of gold really touched my heart. It also tickled my funny-bone, with middle-school shenanigans that left me breathless with laughter several times. Any book I have to stop reading more than once, until I can get my giggling under control and wipe tears of amusement out of my eyes, is all right in my books. Solidly well-told, with a good grasp of schoolyard ethics, a cast of goofy characters, and a touch of satire that elevates it to the realm of legit literature without dimming its sparkle of fun, this simply has to be one of the best real-world based, present-day tales of primary-school high jinks and student-election intrigue.

Its author is a Canadian writer best known for his hockey- and soccer-related young-adult novels, such as the five Charlie Joyce books. Something I have observed about writers of sports fiction is their knack for mining emotional truth out of everyday situations - something to be encouraged even by readers who aren't particularly into sports. This is a wonderful example of a book in which a sports-fiction author branches out and uses the same magic touch on a non-athletic subject. It is scheduled to become available in the U.S. Oct. 4, 2016. This review is based on a pre-publication proof made available through Netgalley dot com.

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