Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life
This selection came as the result of browsing through the new teen fiction section at my local library. I vaguely recalled the author (I think one of my former students rec’d Fat Kid Rules the World to me when I was teaching), but it was the creativity of the cover that drew me in. I think I had taken a look at King of the Screwups before, but I decided to give it a go this time, seeing as the library had let me down by not having the books I had intended to check out.
The premise is a simple one: Liam Geller has what most teenage boys only dream of: good looks, athletic ability, and popularity. Of course, he also seems to have the knack for making the very decisions that disappoint his father the most. When Liam steps over the line one too many times, his father throws him out of the house, and Liam chooses to live with his father’s gay, glam-rocking, disc jockey older brother named Pete.
Though living in a filthy trailer in upstate New York is a far cry from the life of luxury to which Liam is accustomed, he soon sees it as the perfect opportunity to remake himself into the kind of person who will finally gain the approval of his father. Along the way, though, Liam realizes he can either continue living under the constant burden of trying to please others, or he can finally choose the freedom of becoming the person he was meant to be, no matter what others think.
What I loved: Underneath his former runway model mother, brilliant CEO father, and his own uncanny fashion sense, Liam is a normal teenage boy. Who is sometimes merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, but more often than not, just does some really stupid stuff. And you want to smack him upside the head and ask him, “What on earth were you thinking?” (but you already know that he wasn’t).
But just like his “Aunt” Pete, in the next moment you want to give him a hug and smack his idiot father upside the head for making Liam feel unworthy of his love and acceptance (just wait until you read about Liam’s birthday). You want to shake some sense into him about this nonsense about not excelling at anything in life, but also warn him that he’s going to have to buckle down and start living up to the potential you see in him.
I like that Going has taken Liam on a realistic journey. Though he’s on the path to success by the novel’s end, not all of the conflict with his family is wrapped up in a nice, neat package. Thank goodness there were no tearful group hugs at the conclusion ala some cheesy ABC Family television drama.
On the flip side: I do wonder about the intended audience for this book. Though the main character is a teenage boy. I can’t see the average high school boy picking up a book about a highly metrosexual male character with aspirations of becoming a supermodel, and thinking, “Wow, this guy is just like me; I’ve got to read this.” ETA: This statement sounds incredibly judgemental on my part as I read it another time or two, and I certainly don’t mean it to be. Not trying to knock any guy who is actually like this. I love that Liam is confident in who he is (though maybe he’s not going to openly admit that, yes, he’s the one who bought all those hair products).
Of course, being twenty-six years old and a girl, what do I really know about the way teenage boys think (and is that something I really want to strive to understand)? I do think that kids today, in general, are a lot more open-minded than their predecessors, so if they give King of the Screwups a chance, they will more than likely come to the conclusion that they have some of the same struggles as Liam. They’ll sympathize with his inability to please his father, realize they’ve messed up a time or two as well, and have also striven to discover just who they are and in what area they are going to be successful.
King of the Screwups was a surprising winner in my book. Definately found a pearl in this one.