Hilarious wit and serious gloom blend seamlessly as Guy wades through the year after his dad’s death.
Everything is slightly offbeat here, from Guy himself (a contemporary Jewish teen who cares about bubble baths but not music) to his late father’s literal-treasure-hunting past to the forensics required right in the middle of the realism. Francis Langman had a long, colorful life before he met Guy’s (much younger) mother, so Guy tries to write “Rules for Living”: The Francis Langman Story as a tribute and quote-preserver (“Death is part of life, but so is the clap…. Seriously, Guy, wear a rubber”). Guy’s running inner monologue is sharply observational, sardonic, funny and sad. “Does replacing an ‘e’ with an apostrophe automatically make something sound more poetic? I lunch’d on school burritos.…” Best friend Anoop and other peers are freshly unusual, not recycled character types. Anoop corrals passive Guy into forensics club, and none too soon—a real death occurs at a forensics meet. Is someone trying to off Guy? The pals lift fingerprints and don golf attire to follow a hunch but instead find something surprisingly touching. It’s only too bad that Berk’s “rules for living” structure uses a stereotypical primitive-tribe trope to contrast with complex first-world humans.
Realistic grief, humor, camp, crime investigation—and plenty of good boner jokes. (Fiction. 12-16)