A pot-smoking slacker with a habit of writing half-songs meets his long-lost father in this droll, moving novel.
“I’m lazy, and I’m a coward, but I’ll do pretty much anything if a girl is watching.” So proclaims Austin Methune, a white 16-year-old with an energetic narrative voice. During a disastrous attempt to woo a group of girls, he manages to get his mother’s boyfriend’s expensive mandolin destroyed by a bitter bully. Austin receives an ultimatum: either go to military school or attend summer school and tutoring sessions to pass algebra and join the boyfriend’s lawn-care business to pay off the remaining debt. Distractions come in the form of Shane Tyler, Austin’s musical idol and, it turns out, longtime absent father. Austin chooses to reconnect with his father while keeping it a secret from his mother. “I have a mission! I have a goal, something to focus on!” Rubens writes with a deft comic hand. Though Austin appears a shirker, his self-deprecating remarks and melodramatic wit will hook readers. As he neglects his mother, friends, and obligations for his father, music, and loving his tutor, Austin finds it hard to abandon his carefree new lifestyle. The further Austin messes up, the harder he falls. Still, Austin’s struggle to do good makes for a fun time.
A charming, at times brutally funny peek inside a slacker’s mind. (Fiction. 14-18)