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and Lived to Write the Story

by Robin Friedman

Age Range: 11 - 14

Pub Date: June 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8126-2738-5

In many ways Jackie Monterey, 13, is a typical teenager. His parents are a great embarrassment to him; he’s having a boring and frustrating summer; and his best friends don’t really understand him. One thing does differentiate Jackie from his peers, though—Jackie plans to write the Great American Novel over the summer between 8th and 9th grades. After all, Jackie did invest in a book called “Get Rich Quick! Write a Bestseller in Less Than a Year.” The only trouble is that Jackie can’t get past his first sentence. He also can’t decide on the genre of his groundbreaking novel—will he get rich quick by writing a hard-boiled detective story, sci-fi, a gritty western, or an “Indiana Jones”-style adventure story? During his long bouts of writer’s block, Jackie engages in normal adolescent activities—he swims on a team at the local swim club, hangs out with his pals, and gets dumped by a beautiful but unfeeling girl with whom he has absolutely nothing in common. Jackie isn’t an untalented writer, but he lacks direction and focus and is too stubborn to take any advice or help from anyone. To make things even worse, he has a problem sticking with things. Jackie blames everyone around him for his lack of progress—his parents constantly interrupt him and don’t take his “work” seriously and his friends distract him with juvenile antics. But as the summer progresses Jackie realizes that sometimes you do need to listen to other, perhaps even wiser, people. While this novel’s premise is promising, the elements don’t quite gel—Jackie’s friends, while meant to be funny and quirky, are too often merely annoying and Jackie just misses being charming. Despite the fact that many of the jokes and comic situations are belabored and forced, there are several funny scenes and Jackie does turn out to be an endearing character. Not a “must have” book, but one with a certain amount of appeal for its age group. (Fiction. 11-14)