Can 12-year-old Max become someone totally new at family summer camp?
When his parents announce the three of them are going to camp together for a week, Max initially wishes he could stay home, like his college-age brother, Ben. Not that Max would want to actually stay with Ben, who has the temperament of a grizzly bear. However, on the way to camp, Max realizes he will be able to be anyone, to act any way, to say anything about himself that he wants to in a camp full of strangers. Thus Mad Max is born. After a couple of (tame) adventures with the wilder kids at camp while his parents are otherwise occupied, Max begins to rethink his new persona. Still, there were aspects of Mad Max that he liked. Can he import those traits into his home life, find out why bully Wiley McNaught hates him and maybe kiss a girl? Salm’s debut is a meandering tale with a narrator who leaves no aside unexplored… even within other asides. The hand-lettered footnotes wear thin early on, especially those that explain why Max’s witticisms are so funny. The characters are realistic enough, but the scattershot plot and abrupt end leave much to be desired. Scattered doodles add visual interest but seem largely unrelated to the text.
Preteen boys might initially identify with Max’s love of baseball and his nervousness around girls, but they will be too bored to finish his “adventure.” (Fiction. 9-12)