If guys feel that they don't get fair representation in books for middle readers, they should take a look at a series written just for them. Sarah Weeks has written some solidly funny and well-grounded books about sixth and seventh grade guys starring a guy whose name is, as you might guess, Guy, a device which makes for some pretty clever titles.
In the first book, Regular Guy, Guy and his best friend Buzz come up with an interesting explanation for Guy's over-the-top geeky parents. Buzz suggests that Guy had to have been switched at birth, and the two do some "research" (pulling a detention to sneak a peek at the school's files) on who else was born on Guy's birthday. When they discover that it's their seriously dorky classmate Bob-O Smith, their theory seems to be confirmed. Bob-O's parents are stultifyingly normal, and Guy even looks like them. Bob-O is also intrigued with this possibility, so the boys pretend that a social studies project requires a parent switch for the weekend. The switch opens both Guy's and Bob-O's eyes to the fact that their original annoying parents are their real parents and a far better match for them than the alternative.
In the sequel, Guy Time, like his weird mom, Guy's whole world has flipped. Not only are his parents separating and his mother dating a series of embarrassing men, including his science teacher Mr. Blankman, Stan the Ferret Man, Kazoo Man, and Brad, who's "in fur," but seventh grade is turning out to be a cauldron of roiling romantic intrigue. Autumn Hockney has invited him on a group movie date, but his best friend Buzz is threatening to ditch him if he goes. When he disses Autumn to stay in Buzz's good graces, former class geek Bob-O Smith, who is morphing into a bit of a ladies' man himself, blabs the story to his new girlfriend, who blabs it to Autumn, who blabs it to her best friend, the large and belligerent Lana Zuckerman. Guy is in deep doo in his middle school world and has to find a way to make peace with all of them. Guy's angst is amusing, the dialog is clever, but the two-way tension of the early teen guy is no less real. With his usual good sense, Guy works out a tenable position with his mom, Buzz, and his almost girlfriend Autumn, all in his own Guy time.
In the third book of the sequence, My Guy, Guy's worst nightmare seems to be coming true! His mom is getting engaged to a man who is not only as goofy as she is, but a professional clown to boot! Even worse than that embarrasing reality is that Clown Guy is also the father of Lana Zuckerman, class bully! For once, however, Lana is on his side in this one, and Guy, Lana, and best buddy Buzz come up with a plot to foil the marriage plans. After the obligatory "hilarity ensues," the wedding goes forward, with the redeeming side effect that the newly married couple buy a bigger house just next door from Buzz. This novel is so improbably over the top that it has become (what else?) a Disney movie script, which at least takes advantage of its catchy title. Nevertheless, My Guy does take an upbeat look at the very real discomfort which affects those kids for whom their parents' second marriages are not exactly the kids' first choice.
The last book in the series, Guy Wire, is actually a prequel, in which Sarah Weeks uses a frame story (in which Guy's buddy Buzz is hit by a car) to recall Guy and Buzz at age seven. While they wait to hear Buzz's fate in the hospital, Guy's mom encourages him to summon up positive memories about Buzz, and Guy goes into a dream-like sequence in which he recalls those second-grade days when he first became friends with Buzz. As a new kid in class, Buzz was called Fennimore and, having moved from Pigeon Forge, Tennesee, was a super polite, Swanee-tongued geek with slicked-down hair. In the process of becoming friends, Guy overcomes Fennimore's attachment to his former best friend, "George from Pigeon Forge," acquires the nickname "Guy Wire." and suffers through the flap over the buzz cut his mom gives Fennimore. Luckily, the haircut becomes a popular style in Mrs. Hunn's second grade, and the boys become best friends. What's more, Fennimore acquires a new persona and is evermore known as "Buzz." Of course, at the book's conclusion Buzz survives the accident, and the boys' friendship survives as well.
Although these books take a less than super serious look at the problems of early adolescence, they manage to leave us laughing while affirming the value of a close friend--and family, however annoying--to get guys through these trying times.
Labels: Adolescent Boys ()Grades 4-7)