Middle school newbies concerned about fitting in could do worse than fall for this breezy sales pitch from self-appointed “life coach” Max Corrigan. Probably.
So sure is Max of his skills that he guarantees potential customers that he can have them click with all the cliques—Jocks, Nerds, Preps, Band Geeks, Artists, Tough Kids, and Class Clowns—in the first week of school. Addressing anxious readers as those customers, Max glibly steers them into a series of quid-pro-quo deals while offering samples of stand-up–comic styles, artspeak jargon, conversational icebreakers (“What’s the most number of times you’ve vomited in one day?”), a lunchroom seating diagram, money-raising scams, and other useful skills. Interspersed with Wimpy Kid–style cartoon punch lines, threats from the angry principal, and comments from a broad range of typecast schoolmates, Max’s chatter masks a plotline in which the unseen client/reader squeaks through a series of nerve-wracking encounters that ultimately lead to a riot at a school assembly, the total humiliation of a rival “coach,” all bargains fulfilled, and a tantalizing lead-in to the next episode.
Max’s proposed campaign and Swaab’s oblique storytelling style are equally engaging, though the latter definitely tends to work better. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 10-12)