Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Mock Printz: Bret McCarthy: Work in Progress

Title: Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress
Author: Maria Padin
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 978-0-375-84675-5
*Star Review in PW*

The Plot:
Brett McCarthy is a fairly normal eighth-grader. She's on the soccer team (and the basketball team) with two close friends and 'the intruder'. Life is going along fine until the prank. A fouled phone prank turns Brett's comfortable life upside down. Suddenly everyone at school hates her (at least SHE thinks so), she's got a permanent lunch date with the principal, and somethings up with her Nonna that no one wants to explain to her. Brett works her way through losing a close friendship, finding new friends, and her Nonna's sickness as well as 8th grade.

Thoughts - including some spoilers!
This book wasn't bad....and when a commentary starts like that you know it's never good! Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress was a decent book. While there were a great many young YA/girl book cliches here, there was also some warm and funny characters which many readers will connect with. One of the cliche elements was a best friend that is growing away from the main character. This often happens in books, because it happens in real life! What I hate is that the friend who chooses the cheerleaders/popular crowd/etc is usually written as a mean, hateful, or snobby character and a lousy friend. Padian takes the cliche and adds something to it. Brett is the one who is not the best friend, but then what 8th grade girl is? Even at the end of the book, the girls are still not friends, but they do reconnect and Diane stands up for her choices. I liked that, just wish that Diane was more of a real character in the beginning of the book.
Another cliche is the sick mother/grandmother/close relative of choice. In this, Padian didn't do so well in my opinion. I loved Nonna as a character. She was great and interesting and fun. I liked her birthday party and the lighthouse, but as soon as doctor visits were mentioned I knew she was doomed. Worse, I didn't see Brett dealing with it. It was like, I'm going to ignore it and just deal day to day then poof, Nonna's accepted she's dying and so I'll accept it too. The parents seemed to do more grieving and dealing with the issue than Brett did.
I applaud the author for resisting the cliche of having the girl realise that her geeky long time male friend is really cute and the perfect boyfriend. Even though I loved Michael and rejoiced when he stood up and told Brett how much her casual teasing about being a nerd, geek, or Einstein bothered him, I would have booed if they had coupled off in the end. I thought it was great when Brett stood up for not only him but all of the gifted students and it was equally great when he came to her rescue at the climax, but it was nice to see a time when a boy and a girl can be friends with out thinking they are 'in love'.

So in the end, this is a book I will give my tween readers who want a taste of those teen book. Where the drama here is phone pranks and the most violence that happens is a punch in the nose. It's a bit melodramatic for me, but I know many who will adore it.

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