A debut that reads like an early draft of a successful story of mild middle school drama.
Ferrell Savage has been friends for years with neighbor Mary Vittles, but now that they are in middle school, he feels the relationship changing. Sweet, loyal Ferrell doesn’t mind Mary’s tendency to throw around SAT words or her ferocious competitiveness. That Mary’s entry in the Big Sled Race loses to a newcomer’s is bad enough, but that Ferrell’s spectacular wipeout garners him the most attention of all strains things further. That would be a perfectly fine premise for a book, but unfortunately, it’s not the premise for this book. No, this book’s premise is that Ferrell’s great-great-uncle was an infamous (real-life) cannibal and Mary’s ancestor his victim (note their names—get it? Get it?).That’s his secret, but he doesn’t know it yet. (Readers do, thanks to the cover, and they have to endure a lot of obvious misdirection before Ferrell learns.) Complicating matters is the sled-racing newcomer, even more competitive than Mary, who threatens to air their terrible secret if they don’t agree to a rematch so winning will focus all attention on him. How does he know about Ferrell’s relative? Why does he care so much about it? Readers never learn. Tendentiously cute names (there’s also Bruce Littledood, Ms. Goodkind, Ms. Bland, Mr. Comfy and so on) distract more than they amuse.
Strip the cannibalism, the clumsy, plot-driven characterization and the dopey names, and this could be quite a sweet story. (Fiction. 9-12)