Books by Daniel Ehrenhaft

HISTORY
Released: July 19, 2011

Sounding like a corny uncle knee-slapping his way through a civics textbook, or perhaps a high-school history teacher certain that name-dropping rock bands will make him seem hip, this full-color guidebook aims for edutainment but falls far short.

Despite the implication of the title, the subject matter is not comprehensive, instead covering a hodgepodge of topics from the Electoral College to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Salem Witch Trials. In an attempt to enliven dry, disjointed infodumps, the authors crack constant, unfunny verbal and visual jokes that range from painfully dated (the chapter on dynasties in U.S. business and politics devotes most of a page to an aside about the TV show Dynasty, complete with a photograph of the cast) to downright tasteless ("Mexico sends us hardworking laborers, petroleum...and the irresistible two taco/one enchilada combo plate"). Visual content also serves as a gag (a picture of an Afghan hound in the War on Terror section is captioned "Afghans are known for their distrust of outsiders and lustrous coats"). The brief conclusion takes a more serious turn by suggesting steps toward activism and pointing readers toward organizations working on a variety of issues.

There are a few nuggets of helpful information here, but readers will be too busy groaning to find them. (Nonfiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
THAT’S LIFE, SAMARA BROOKS by Daniel Ehrenhaft
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Feb. 9, 2010

Ridiculous theories of science and the paranormal destroy a promising story of nature vs. nurture. Samara Brooks heads a gambling ring in the cafeteria of her middle school. When she's caught, she strikes a bargain with the principal: He won't call her parents, and she'll conduct a science experiment with the school's never-used electron microscope, comparing her DNA to that of her friend and class president Lily Frederick. If Samara's DNA is structurally identical to Lily's, this will prove that she's not a bad person. Weirdness ensues when classmate Nathan Weiss spots a pattern in Samara's DNA that resembles clues to a 600-year-old extraterrestrial mystery. The multiple plots of gambling, adoption, aliens, religion and politics never jell. Plotlines are introduced then abandoned before their resolution. Even thinner than the plot are the characterizations. The teens are indistinct, and the adults are one-sided. A few funny, touching moments cannot save this convoluted mess. (Fiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
DIRTY LAUNDRY by Daniel Ehrenhaft
FICTION
Released: Jan. 1, 2009

When graffiti artist Fun is threatened with expulsion from Winchester, the last option for "dirty laundry" white-collar teens kicked out of every other East Coast school, he strikes a deal with the headmaster and his TV-producer father: Serve as the personal assistant to undercover actress Carli, who's conducting research for her new teen drama, and he will be allowed to graduate. Meanwhile, popular senior Darcy Novak has gone missing, and conscientious Carli resolves to find her, despite Fun's skepticism. They are assisted by a ragtag assortment of boarding-school dropouts who hinder more than help, and they follow a series of dead-end clues that seem to exist solely for the hipster teens to have something to angst over. Ehrenhaft appears to be trying to strike a darkly comedic Heathers tone with his smug, ironic dialogue, but the attempt falls flat due to shallow characterizations, a convoluted plot and too many red herrings. Though the name Veronica Mars is invoked, neither Carli nor Fun is much of a sleuth, nor is this much of a mystery. (Mystery. 13 & up)Read full book review >
THE AFTER LIFE by Daniel Ehrenhaft
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

Initially, the intriguing plot device of this teen problem novel is enticing, but on the whole, it fails to deliver. Will, a New York City 19-year-old living with his artsy mother, knows of his biological father but has never met him, until his stepsister's party invitation lands Will at his father's apartment. He's shocked to learn that his dad is a filthy-rich aging hippie addicted to alcohol and cocaine. The following morning, a hung-over Will is dumbfounded when his stepsister informs him of his father's heart attack and death. An alcohol-soaked funeral in Florida and subsequent return road trip to New York, both tasks to collect a huge inheritance, shape the bulk of this narrative told from three alternating points of view. Will, his stepsister Liz and her twin brother Kyle take turns revealing their inner angst and doubts about their strange and pathetic extended family. Haphazard writing hampers random stops along the journey of self-discovery until the travelers arrive in Manhattan—only to discover more family secrets. Promising but unfulfilling. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
FICTION
Released: May 1, 2006

Seventeen-year-old textbook geek Carlton Dunne IV has zero game and funnels his inner teenage male mojo into a comic strip called Signy the Superbad, which chronicles the smashes and crashes of a buxom blonde Scottish crime-fighting vixen. When his dad is kidnapped by an evil Scottish rogue, Carlton jets off to Scotland to rescue him. Along the way he meets Aileen, an alluring, beer-guzzling, rough-and-tumble gal who drags him headfirst into danger, not unlike his comic super-heroine. As per usual, Ehrenhaft's dead-on characterizations and genuine teen dialogue will hook readers of all ages. Unfortunately this latest takes several dozen pages to get moving, and even then it still sputters and fights to gain momentum. Perhaps most distracting is the many extraneous footnotes that litter the bottom of the pages. Biston's pen-and-ink drawings, however, amplify Carlton's clever sense of humor and mirror his up-and-down escapades with Aileen. Truthfully, all Ehrenhaft really needs to succeed is to infuse the same wry, self-deprecating wit and spontaneity into his plotting that he so thoughtfully invokes in his characters. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
10 THINGS TO DO BEFORE I DIE by Daniel Ehrenhaft
ADVENTURE
Released: Nov. 9, 2004

Ted Burger, 16 and with "Brillo pad hair," has always played it safe, choosing to experience the wilder sides of teenage-boydom vicariously through his bonkers best friend, Mark. But when he discovers he's been poisoned by a lunatic diner chef and has only 24 hours to live, he enlists the help of Mark and his girlfriend Nikki to dash off a list of brilliantly hair-brained activities he must accomplish before he dies. The trio then embarks on a dizzying New York City roller-coaster ride of booze, rock-and-roll concerts, drunken taxi rides, and a credit-card-stealing prostitute. Believable? Not exactly. Fun? Totally. Ehrenhaft's keen characterizations and teen-speak dialogues ring true, and with so many fabulously taboo plot twists, one would think this could be his one-two punch to Quick Pick stardom. But somehow he caps this shameless and entertaining whirlwind race against time with a syrupy, half-baked, and predictable ending guaranteed to piss off and/or disappoint every teen reader who for 200 pages succumbed to and believed in Ted's full-throttle quest for complete spontaneity. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
TELL IT TO NAOMI by Daniel Ehrenhaft
FICTION
Released: June 8, 2004

Sophomore scrub Dave Rosen falls head over heels for bohemian senior Celeste Fanucci at first sight. Decked out in long, flowery dresses with Birkenstocks on her feet, Dave immediately knows Celeste is "the one," and yearns for a way into her heart. Enter the cunning brain of his 20-something sister, Naomi, a struggling journalist hunting for both a job and infamy to go with it. By convincing Dave to tack her own name to his advice column in the school newspaper, she unknowingly helps him devise a scheme to worm his way into Celeste's heart. Of course, not everything goes as planned, and Dave eventually finds he must answer both to the school faculty and the student body that he advises. Articulate, interesting, yet somewhat stilted, Ehrenhaft's abundant exposition, high number of central characters, and lilting plot may try the patience of less persistent readers. However, hangers-on will definitely relish his easy style, well-conceived characterizations, and Dave's humorous insight and plight as he balances changing friendships, first love, and his notorious, new-found alter-ego. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
THE LAST DOG ON EARTH by Daniel Ehrenhaft
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 11, 2003

Warning: the dog dies. Actually, most of the dogs on the West Coast die here, victims either of a prion plague (think Mad Cow Disease) that turns them suddenly vicious in its last stages, or of systematic extermination. Worse yet, bitten humans turn out to be susceptible, too. Ehrenhaft, author of entries in the Bone Chillers series, places Logan, an Oregon teenager with family problems, and Jack, a wild dog he's tamed who turns out to be immune to the plague, and therefore the key to a cure, against a backdrop of rising governmental and public panic. The two escape the plague, but not the panic: losing themselves in the woods despite the best efforts of Logan's bad-news stepfather to keep them separately captive, the two fugitives are finally forced to place themselves in the care of Logan's estranged father (a brilliant epidemiologist, forsooth) after Jack is brutally beaten by vigilante exterminators. Though happenstance plays a large role in the plot, and the author has a tendency to trot in typecast characters, then summarily drop them, disaster-tale fans with a taste for the lurid will not be let down by this melodramatic, if predictable, chiller. (Fiction. 11-13)Read full book review >