Welcome back to Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers.
I had planned on making this my MONDAY post, but alas, time got away from me and I was still finishing my read through of the ARC, so BOOM...we're breaking out the party hats and horns for a BOOK BIRTHDAY celebration. You good? Good because today's celebrant is all about making time for the things that really matter in life...in a dark humor enriched, lack of sugar coating sort of way. Trust me, the weird factor makes it THAT more memorable. Make room on your reading lists for today's book of choice...
About the book...
Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he’s so enormous-6’6″ and 250 pounds to be exact. He has nobody at school, and life in his trailer-park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother’s suicide. There’s no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there’s only one person who can help: Neanderthal. To his own surprise, Cliff says he’s in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS, Cliff feels like he’s part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn’t as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they’ve completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.
This is a story about those treasured years we spend in high school and how those memories are the fondest of our lives and...this is so much BS right now, even I can't keep a straight face and I'm not actually LOOKING you in the eye right now. HA!
Okay, so it's not about the sunshine and roses version of HS, but the raw reality of being on the fringe, trying to survive the day to day servings of craptastisticness life has to offer, and finding meaning in it all to pull us through another day. It's about hard times, ruthless cliques, and drug use. It's about suicide, beat downs, and cruelty. You know what though? It's also about HOPE. It's about the person hiding behind the mask (thank you HAL for that well turned borrowed quote). It's about the way in which we CHOOSE to see the world, and what we're willing to do about it to affect change. It's about not simply letting life happen, but being a part of life. It's about making a difference in our own lives, but also in the lives of others. It's about taking chances, chasing dreams, and finding out what our meaning of life is because let's face it, it's not a one size fits all world out there.
With a cast of characters that are as memorable as the hard hitting dialogue, this book has so much going for it in a somewhat warped sense of wonderful way, you won't know what hit you. Just try to forget Neanderthal, aka Cliff, with his larger than average presence that only rivals his larger than average heart...and yes, that sounds incredibly sappy, but once you read his story, see his life through his eyes, you'll see what I mean. Moving on....proving size doesn't matter, we've got Tegan, a spitfire who takes nothing from no one, no how, and yet carries the weight of a heartbreak so deep, it may push her towards a costly misstep. Seriously though, LOVED THIS GIRL! Then there's Aaron, the other male lead, in all his former jock dream glory, taking a curious turn in his High School ruling thanks to an accident (or was it fate?) shaking more than a few screws loose in his well-coiffed head. His "mission" from the big guy upstairs certainly seems like a stretch, but then again, anything worth doing is gonna take time, calculated risk, and turn a few heads. I admit, I guessed who HAL was pretty early on...something just struck me about the character and when two and two came together, BOOM, my hunch was confirmed...though it did take a little time for me to see the other connection that was certainly well hidden.
All in all, a surprising read from start to finish. I found it equally heart wrenching and hilarious, in a dark, sometimes twisted way, and both aspects made me keep stopping to share a little bit with someone, ANYONE close at hand. Though fiction, it deals with some BIG issues that may hit home for some readers, but it also offers up some sound advice and a reminder that you are not alone. A perfectly timed release for Pride Month, this is a great add to your reading list for teen readers and beyond!
About the author...
Preston Norton is: bisexual, slightly genderqueer, married. His partner, Erin, is trying to put him on a diet, and he's revolting (both contexts apply). He has taught seventh grade and ninth grade English, mentored drug addicts, and mowed lawns (in no particular order). He is obsessed with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Quentin Tarantino.
Special thanks to Casey at Disney Publishing Worldwide for the ARC for review. (THANKS!) For more information on this title, the author, or the publisher, feel free to click through the links provided above. This title is available TODAY in ebook and tree book formats, so be on the lookout for it on a bookstore shelf or virtual retailer of your choosing.
Until next time, remember...if it looks good, READ IT!