Monday, November 10, 2008

Getting the Girl: A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and Cookery by Susan Juby

What an amazing title! If I hadn’t already read and enjoyed Susan Juby, the title alone would get me to pick up the book.

Our protagonist and detective hero is Sherman Mack, a self proclaimed scholar of girls. That doesn’t actually translate into any dates, but he still loves them anyway. His friends have helpfully suggested that he is actually a scholar of stalking, but he doesn’t agree with that one bit.

Sherman has just begun 9th grade at Harewood High School. At Harewood, girls can be Defiled. If that sounds awful, well, rest assured it really is. When a girl is defiled she becomes invisible, but only after she is basically tried and convicted by a mob of her peers, her reputation dragged through the mud, and finally never spoken to again. No one will even speak her name. Unsurprisingly, most of the girls drop out or switch schools to escape. No one knows how the girls are chosen to be defiled – whether it is one person or a nefarious committee of students. But it is serious, serious stuff.

Enter Sherman. He is worried a girl he likes is a candidate for defilement and has launched an investigation. One might think from this description that this book would be on the serious side, but it is actually very humorous. Sherman is a rather silly and immature (in fact he seemed much younger than a 9th grader – at times I would have placed him in elementary school – my only complaint with the book). This is mostly played for laughs.

For me, the best part of the book came from Sherman’s descriptions of his family life.

“Hello, sweet ‘ums,” she’ll say, and follow that up with a bunch of baby talk. Sometimes I worry that my mother may be trying to make me gay. It’s not just the baby talk. It’s our entire living environment. My mother is into glitter. This is very damaging for a developing male.

His mother had him when she was 16 and this formed a breach between her and her parents that has never been repaired. Her parents routinely send over fruit baskets with vitamins hidden in the bottom for Sherman. He appreciates these gestures more than he lets his mother know. Especially since she never cooks anything other than toast.

After several setbacks, including a rather embarrassing photo of him dressed up in a popular kid’s mother’s clothing, Sherman does manage to crack the case. And it is a surprising and satisfying ending (part of which a close reader may have already deducted).

A very fun read that will most appeal to readers in Junior High.

1 comment:

Bibliovore said...

I've loved Susan Juby ever since I got my hot little mitts on the Alice McLeod books. Glad to hear her new one is just as fun.