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PROJECT SWEET LIFE by Brent Hartinger


by Brent Hartinger

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-082411-2
Publisher: HarperTeen

This old-fashioned boys’ yarn’s jaunty premise—that three 15-year-old boys can circumvent working at dreary summer jobs and instead make $7,000 (the amount they figure their wages would yield) fast so they can spend a leisurely summer spelunking, scuba diving, bike riding and swimming—takes a single chapter to set up. However, like the boys’ various schemes, which flutter then fail, it takes forever for the story to develop narrative drive, and, in fact, the wheels don’t start turning on their own until well into the second half. By then the three true-blue buddies, who are superficially but clearly differentiated, are in deep trouble. Although their ingenuity has kept them from getting caught by their parents, they’re dead broke, and the summer, along with their earning opportunities, is rapidly drawing to a close. An exciting, on-the-edge-of-credible climax is followed by some heartfelt thoughts about the nature of friendship and the requisite life lessons. Despite the material’s overall pleasantness and sturdy sense of place, it doesn’t engage until far too late, at which time readers may well have lost interest. (Fiction. 12 & up)