This is Max Crumbly's first experience in public school, and so far he's vomited on bully Doug "Thug" Thurston, forfeited a race due to his insistent bladder, and been locked in his locker—but it's still better than home-schooling with Grandma.
Humiliation's a bummer, but cute Erin Madison seems friendly, so the asthmatic, white eighth-grader perseveres. Max laboriously introduces his quirks (chiefly a preoccupation with bathroom functions, but he also likes comic books and rap), his supporting cast, and plot elements in an illustrated "journal" that's marked by many exclamation points and cross-outs. The latter can be baffling; readers will understand why Max seeks to conceal his crush on Erin from his putative audience (and himself), but why redact "I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and POOP better lyrics!"? Pacing is uneven: the action doesn't really get underway till about the two-thirds mark, when Thug locks Max up again, this time for a long weekend, and the would-be superhero discovers three inept burglars as he tries to escape—and then the story ends on a cliffhanger. Even given its conscious nod to comic books, the plotting is implausible and the prose often painfully artless ("That's when I excitedly came up with a brilliant plan!"), making its eighth-grade authorship all too convincing.
This spinoff is heavy on the poop jokes and light on almost everything else—readers expecting a boy Dork Diaries with equal nuance may be surprised. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)