A sardonic teen must balance life, love and irritable bowel syndrome in this strained middle-class comedy of manners.
Jay Baker’s life is a mess. His parents are separating, his mom is shacking up with his crush object’s dad and he’s running for freshman-class president against football Neanderthal Mike Hibbard, who’s been bullying him for the past two years. He’s also torn between two girls: the aforementioned crush—and best friend—Cameo and hot, new tennis whiz Caroline. To top it all off, Jay’s IBS does nothing to help his game either on or off the court. Clark’s dialogue-heavy prose is littered with Jay’s sarcastic zingers, often to the point of distraction, like this tortured bon mot: “Ah, there he was: my born-again inner snarkster delivering that little fetus to their doorstep. It’s a boy!” Between the soapy story line, constantly acerbic commentary and clumsily doctored pop-song titles that introduce each chapter, the whole effect is too, too much. In addition, references to current celebrities like Katy Perry and Jessica Alba ensure a short shelf life. For more authentically humorous male teen voices that aren’t trying so hard, look to Don Calame’s Swim the Fly (2009) or Susan Juby’s Getting the Girl (2008).
Restraint would have been the better part of valor here. (Fiction. 13 & up)