Title: King of the Screwups
Author: K.L. Going
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Starred reviews in: PW, SLJ
High school senior Liam Geller has a tendency to unintentionally upset his father when Liam’s main goal for most of his life has been to appease and impress him. A transgression involving a girl, a state of undress and his wealthy CEO father’s desk proves to be the proverbial last straw. Faced with being shipped to his paternal grandparents (as unforgiving and closed-minded as his loathsome father) Liam opts to stay with Mr. Geller’s estranged brother. “Aunt Pete”, friend to Liam’s mom, is a cross-dressing musician/ radio deejay with a glam rock band, a trailer abode, good intentions, heart and a boyfriend who ends up being Liam’s new English teacher. Liam and Pete fumble a bit but ultimately form a relationship infinitely preferable to the one Liam shares with his cruel and verbally abusive father. Try as he might to reinvent himself into the kind of man he thinks his father could respect and love (‘unpopular geek’ stereotype), Liam’s genuine charm, natural aptitude for fashion and the good looks he inherited from his runway model mother make it near impossible. In trying to create a father-pleasing-persona and failing miserably, Liam manages (with the help of his supportive, insightful glam rock family and Pineville friends) to discover his promise and potential. Liam realizes his talents, passions and who he is are worth standing up for. Preferably on a runway.
Going does a great job showing how Liam’s potential and happiness are stifled by his father’s expectations, disapproval and bullying. The destructive behavior Liam often apologizes for tends to happen after exposure to his father in a cycle as vicious as Mr. Geller, whose history of unpopularity clearly causes his resentment of his son and wife. With Screwups, Going offers a flip side view of wealth and beauty, their superficial and alternative meanings. Italicized flashbacks are perfectly timed and don’t slow the pace, instead they reveal and emphasize the different relationships Liam has with his parents and how they’ve shaped him. The dialogue is believable and the characterization fleshed out. Liam is a likable, relatable protagonist. Aunt Pete and his glam band are a group of guys who each bring something to Liam’s picnic table of personal growth. The ending his hopeful but realistic and doesn’t fall into the trap typically accompanied by cued up “moment” music reminiscent of Full House episodes. Probably not the winner. An honor would be nice. But a space on your shelves is a step in the right direction.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Mock Printz 2010: King of the Screwups by K.L. Going
Title: King of the Screwups