Slacker

 
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Slacker
Author(s)
Age Range
10+
Release Date
April 26, 2016
ISBN
978-0545823159
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Cameron Boxer is very happy to spend his life avoiding homework, hanging out with his friends, and gaming for hours in his basement. It's not too hard for him to get away with it . . . until he gets so caught up in one game that he almost lets his house burn down around him.

Oops.

It's time for some serious damage control--so Cameron and his friends invent a fake school club that will make it seem like they're doing good deeds instead of slacking off. The problem? Some kids think the club is real--and Cameron is stuck being president.

Soon Cameron is part of a mission to save a beaver named Elvis from certain extinction. Along the way, he makes some new friends--and some powerful new enemies. The guy who never cared about anything is now at the center of everything . . . and it's going to take all his slacker skills to win this round.

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Overall rating 
 
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Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0  (1)
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4.0  (1)
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
4.0

If Mom tells you to take dinner out of the oven...

Cameron lives to play video games, but when he is so concentrated on one that he doesn't take a casserole out of the oven and the local firemen respond and ax through the front door, his parents are NOT pleased. His parents are concerned because he does nothing else, and while they don't take his video console out into the backyard and set fire to it (like I would!), they demand that he participate in other activities at school to get him out of the basement. With friends Chuck and Pavel, he creates a Positive Action Group, and posts a blurb about it on the school web site. Thinking he can show that to his parents and be done, he contentedly goes back to trying to best Evil McKillPeople on his game... until the ultra-motivated Daphne shows up at his front door, demanding to join. Her purpose is to get help in saving a local beaver, Elvis, whose home has been destroyed by a new highway off ramp project. It gets worse when she brings the group to the attention of Mr. Fanshaw, who hopes to use the group to sell raffle tickets for a fundraiser. Soon, a class president wannabe, a football players on academic probation, and a huge number of other students want to join the group. Cameron is forced to do something. After trying to sneak off to play video games while raking leaves for senior citizens, Cameron accidentally saves an elderly lady who has fallen and makes the news. This encourages more students to join, but also brings the group to the attention of the high school groups, the Friends of Fuzzy. Their leader, Jen, wants all of the attention for herself, so gets her group to sabotage the P.A.G. Things culminate when both groups decide to work against the old highway off ramp being taken down. Will Cameron be able to go back to his old ways once he is no longer in danger of losing his video gaming privileges?

Good Points
Cameron starts off as a fairly nondescript character, but that is a perfect foil for the outspoken Daphne, self-involved String, and deliciously and deceptively evil younger sister Melody. The parents are supportive and helpful but rather clueless, which is a brilliant way to depict parents in a middle grade book. Mr. Fanshaw (whose name Cameron can't remember, leading to a host of amusing attempts like "Mr. Fanny-pack") and the other teachers are humorous, but also sympathetic and realistic.

Video gaming is one of the topics that shows up with alarming regularity on my student interest surveys, but there have been relatively few books that portray tweens with this interest. Of course, this has a subtle message that there are more things kids could be doing in the world, but it is delivered with a large dose of humor.

As with any Korman book, the biggest draw for me is the writing. It is fast-paced (all middle grade books should start with an explosion, or with immolating ziti!) and packed with laugh out loud phrases. My favorite passage (from the ARC): "How many members does the Positive Action Group have?" Members? Exactly the same number as the Stick-Your-Head-in-the-Furnace Club and the Leap-the -Grand-Canyon Society."

The only downside to this book is having to decide how MANY copies of it to buy! Slacker is the perfect middle grade novel about pursuing one's passions, however misguided!
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