THE BURG-O-RAMA MAN by Stephen Tschudi


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The opening is hackneyed, the characterizations are one-and-a-half dimensional--but, in the descent of the Burg-O-Rama food chain on ""typical"" Crawford High, Tschudi has a situation kids will relate to. Burg-O-Rama is going to shoot five commercials at the school, each featuring a different, to-be-selected person--who'll not only be nationally famous, but will earn a wad of money. Narrator Karen Wexler, ""ace reporter,"" and her stereotyped senior pals, ""the Power Mongers,"" pretty much recede (despite some internal strains) as, in five separate episodes, issues of ethics and integrity, commercialism and exploitation, are craftily played out. In the first, extra-tall basketball star Jeff Lauders--resentful of being ""used as the goon,"" disparaged by some kids as a ""big freak""--demonstrates his real on-court talents. . . but still comes off looking ""a showboat,"" Karen thinks, in the Burg-O-Rama commercial. In the second, popular science teacher Robert Walton alerts the kids to the dubiety of Burg-O-Rama's ""100% pure"" claims--then, having wanted to apply his analytical talents to the more lucrative practice of law, stars in a Burg-O-Rama commercial himself. (He never actually ""told us what to think,"" the kids admit--but Karen feels let down anyhow.) The third features Mary Costello, whose loyalty to her family's authentic Italian grocery is compromised only a little by her Burg-O-Rama stint (and she does need the money--in part, to keep the grocery going). The fourth and weakest episode centers on talented dancer Donnie Hamilton (suspected of being gay, then of being a lech); but Karen astutely sees that his commercial was best because it was ""real as far as the acting went, if you can follow all that."" In the fifth and last, Karen, trying to worm the name of the remaining choice from the ""Burg-O-Rams man,"" hears that she's it--and quietly declines. It's a satisfactory ending that also solves her personal-identity problem: she knows now that she's ""at the center of things,"" not just an observer; but she doesn't have to be (like the girl who accepts in her place) ""the center of attention."" Topical, brisk, and not too tidy.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1983
Publisher: Delacorte