Review Detail

Kids Fiction 1157
Funny and Realistic Middle Grade Romance!
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Stu generally hangs out playing video games with his friend Ben, who torments him about some of his past exploits, but when a new girl, Becca, moves to his school, he is entranced. So entranced that he even tries a bit of her roasted red pepper sandwich and claims to be a vegetarian just like she is. The problem? His father runs the local butcher shop, and Stu's relationship with vegetables is antagonistic at best! Still, Becca actually talks to him and gives him Joe's Smokin' Peas (aka fiery peas of death) to eat at lunch, so Stu sticks by his assertion that he is vegetarian, and even volunteers to help with Becca's campaign to get vegetarian entrees offered at lunch. Stu isn't completely sure about Becca's affections, and agonizes when she dances with Jackson in the gym class square dancing unit. As the town's Irrigation Festival approaches, there are lots of plans being made. Stu's father has a super secret plan that involves a float in the parade... as well as some interesting meat related costumes. Becca ramps up her campaign for vegetarian entrees, there are school projects (including Mr. Snedecker's food log), a square dance exhibition, and lots of pairing up of couples. Stu and Ben are a bit confused about their new reactions to girls, but they do their best, asking Becca and Kirsten to go to the festival with them. There are rides, tests of skill, and the parade. Will Stu be able to hide his true self (as well as his family) from Becca? And if she finds out, how will she feel?
Good Points
This is a brilliant book for several reasons. It has the romance of Peirce's Big Nate, the misadventures of Greenwald's Charlie Joe Jackson, and the family involvement of Landis' The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody. Stu is the quintessential middle school student who latches onto something that seems like a good idea and holds onto it even when it doesn't work any longer. It is completely believable that a 6th grade boy would tell a girl he was a vegetarian just to impress her, but the fact that Stu sticks with it just adds to the humor. The plot has a singular point (the festival and his unveiling) that offers a solid and unconfusing framework for a series of hysterically funny anecdoctal events that showcase Stu's process of maturation while still causing me to dog ear every tenth page with a funny line on it.

The supporting characters are amusing foils for Stu's half baked ideas. His father shows a similar misplaced enthusiasm which is particularly fun to see, since middle school students are so often apples to their parental units respective trees, but this is not often shown in the literature. Ben, with his giggle, is a great friend. Becca has her own interests, and while she is somewhat interested in Stu romantically, there are plenty of other things going on in her life.

The best part of this book is the writing. The amount of lines that made me snort with laughter quickly became too numerous to count. From a zombie apocalypse begin just a few bad wieners away to "her hand shriveled up her sleeve like a frightened turtle" (page 101, ARC) to the fact that without girls, the boys would be on the top of a ride barfing their guts out, this was Sonnenblick quality one liners combined with the slightly gross, embarrassing humor that middle school students love. The cover definitely points out that this book will be funny, and does not disappoint.
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