Fourteen-year-old Jack Sprigley is different from the rest of his eighth-grade class in one very embarrassing way: he hasn’t hit puberty.
Convinced that being “stranded on Pubeless Island” will cost him his friends, Jack, who is white, concocts a plan to literally fake it until he makes it. This includes saying and doing whatever it takes to persuade his classmates of his manliness, including seizing an opportunity to regain his popularity by appearing on a television show and presenting a new and improved Jack to the world. It’s a tangled web, and in the end, Jack doesn’t even recognize himself. Real-life puberty is awkward enough, but it’s nothing in comparison to Jack’s cringeworthy attempts to convince everyone at school that he belongs. This novel is not for the squeamish. From telling friends that he spent two weeks of school break masturbating incessantly to actually considering wearing a “merkin” made with someone else’s pubic hair, readers will need to have a high tolerance for embarrassing situations. The discomfort overshadows other elements, such as his father’s death, which might have more to do with Jack’s desire to be seen than just a lack of pubic hair. While this vicarious trip through puberty may be so extremely awkward readers’ own journeys can’t help but feel easy by comparison, it’s pretty one-note.
A story about losing yourself in the quest to belong that gets lost in its own telling. (Fiction. 10-12)