A gang of goofballs engage in all sorts of mischief in Neuman’s (Come One, Come All, 2011, etc.) high-concept, lowbrow literary comic act.
The hulking, somewhat unintelligent Detroit Tom leads a cast of misfit youngsters through a number of amusing capers designed to transform the maladjusted youths into master criminals. The aspiring group, known simply as “The Second Street Gang,” is made up of characters that could have found a fitting home in the pages of Archie Comics. Characters include Fat Bernie, Speedy Arnold, Ratsie Ratowitz and Smelly Beatrice to name but a few. The crew weakly contemplates and feebly attempts two big capers, with less than stellar results. As is often pointed out, Detroit Tom isn’t known for being one of the smartest beings on the planet—he is one of the strongest, however, which puts him onto the gang’s top rung of influence. Only Tom has a tendency to do the right thing, whether he wants to or not, which can often get in the way of his plans to be as big a hit as his idol, the notorious Big Louie. For one thing, Tom finds he cannot hit a woman. The short novel, designed for young readers and all ages above, is akin to reading a literary cartoon, with characters and situations that could easily find themselves worked into a Looney Tunes episode or Pixar’s latest theatrical production. Like the latter, Neuman spreads a morality lesson across his literary canvas that adds to the tale without demeaning it in the slightest. The novel, whether classified as young adult or not, is similar in its storytelling structure to Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events books, particularly in the dry humor and the author’s mysterious first-person narrative, which attempts to explain even the most mundane aspects of the story. While humorous, the light-hearted tale suffers from disjointed pacing but makes up for it in originality.
A rousing, occasionally wooden, romp of amusing criminal masterminds.