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B.U.G. (BIG UGLY GUY) by Jane Yolen


by Jane Yolen ; illustrated by Adam Stemple

Age Range: 8 - 13

Pub Date: March 21st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-525-42238-9
Publisher: Dutton

Some books are impossible to describe.

Saying that B.U.G. is a teenage version of the golem legend would make it sound like Twilight-era supernatural fiction. And saying that the golem plays drums in a fusion band would make it sound like the Archies. In a way, this is a story about bullies. Sammy Greenburg and his friend Skink get beaten up several times before the end of the novel, so it starts to make sense for Sammy to build a golem who will protect him. At times, the story feels less like a fantasy than an old-fashioned problem novel, about fights and crushes and sitting alone at the lunch table—and as a coming-of-age story, it’s very involving. Once in a while, the book also turns into a musical about a teen band. This is unfortunate. Sample lyrics: “But power when it’s not in check / Can leave your life an awful wreck, / Turns success right into drek.” The genre finally doesn’t matter. It’s a story about a boy in trouble. It’s funny and scary and thrilling and—like most versions of the golem story—deeply sad. The Jewish legend works surprisingly well as a story about bullying.

But there may be moments when readers scratch their heads and say: The golem is playing the drums? (Yiddish glossary) (Fantasy. 8-13)