I think COOL IN A DUEL is an even better book than the first in the series, Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything, although I enjoyed that too. This second outing for the intrepid Cheesie seemed more tightly plotted. I really wanted to know how the Cool Duel (between Cheesie and an older boy) was going to end. On the one hand, the conventions of the genre suggest that Cheesie should triumph. However, the events leading up to the final, fatal moment do not bode well for our hero. Read the book to discover how it actually falls out, as I will not be so ill-mannered as to spoil that satisfying twist.
The asides (mostly vocabulary lessons and invitations to view his website) are well-incorporated into the flow of the text, so do not jar and the various reasons for visiting the Cheesie Mack website are clever and appealing. However, the vocab thing (Cheesy loves big words) is one of the few elements of this series that doesn't appeal to me. It feels over-used. Of course writers love words. Of course we want kids to love and use wonderful, precise, satisfying words. But the big-word-loving character who is a vehicle for introducing such words to the reader is a predictable convention. I sympathize with the writer who finds it hard to resist the temptation to employ this device, but, o writer, resist harder.
For anyone tempted to draw a parallel between Cheesie Mack (CM) and the Wimpy Kid (WK), on the one hand, there's clearly some justification. Both characters are small middle-school boys trying to navigate the increasingly tricky world of social interactions, both with girls and with their male peers. Both the CM and WK series are non-threatening, easy to read, illustrated with line drawings and funny. However, I think CM blows the WK out of the water. The WK is the ultimate unreliable narrator. The WK thinks he's all that -- but he's often a bit of a jerk, and he's a fickle friend. CM is not a jerk. His friendships are genuine, his narration trustworthy. Give me piles of CM any day over a helping of WK.
CHEESIE MACK IS COOL IN A DUEL is exactly what the summer reading doctor ordered, and would make the perfect accompaniment to a hammock, a glass of lemonade and a lazy summer day.
Easy to read
Boy-friendly without being boy-centric