Friday, June 25, 2010

83. The Screwed-Up Life of Charlie the Second by Drew Ferguson

This book is another loan from Jeff, he threw it on the pile along with A Density of Souls when getting together the books I asked to borrow (including Vanna Speaks, for which I cannot thank him enough).

Being Charles James Stewart, Jr., AKA Charlie the Second, means never "fitting in." Tall, gangly and big-eared, he could be a poster boy for teenage geeks. An embarrassment to his parents (he's not too crazy about them, either), Charlie is a virtual untouchable at his high school, where humiliation is practically an extracurricular activity. Charlie has tried to fit in, but all of his efforts fail on a glorious, monumental scale. He plays soccer -- mainly to escape his home life -- but isn't accepted by his teammates who basically ignore him on the field. He still confuses the accelerator with the brake pedal and has failed his driving exam six times. He can't work on his college essay without writing a searing tell-all. But what's freaking Charlie out the most is that while his hormones are raging and his peers are pairing off, he remains alone with his fantasies. But all of this is about to change when a new guy at school begins to liven things up on the soccer team -- and in Charlie's life. For the first time in his seventeen years, Charlie will learn how it feels to be a star, well, at least off the field. But Charlie discovers that even cool guys have problems as he embarks on an unforgettable, risk-filled journey from which there is no turning back. 

Plot summary taken from the back cover of the paperback.

I read The Screwed-Up Life of Charlie the Second while we were in North Carolina for Mollie's wedding. We had a little more downtime than I was expecting, which was really nice, and I think I finished it the day before we left. I liked a lot, it's very funny. I especially liked Bink's mom with her examples of famous people that Charlie should emulate or use as inspiration -- her descriptions of them always started out well but ended tragically, with her supposing that maybe Charlie shouldn't look up to them after all. Ah, the best of intentions. 

The format of the book is like a journal -- Charlie is attempting to write a college application essay, and his writing is basically the attempt to do so. I was impressed at how he grew over the course of the story and gained understanding of himself and some of the people around him; and the evolution of the college essay was a great way to show that. It's an interesting narrative device -- he's writing with hindsight about events that have happened, in extreme first person. I found myself wondering how the book would have been different if written in another format. 

If you read my Sugarless review, you know how I feel about boys -- they're gross. Charlie is no exception. I felt a bit squeamish at parts, but nothing that made me want to stop reading. Oh, and in case you were wondering, here's how you can tell that I'm old: Sometimes, or a lot of the time, I find myself sympathizing more with the parents than with the teenagers. Charlie was frequently sarcastic with his parents, reacting to their questions about whether he started his homework as if being personally attacked. And so his dad was overprotective -- there are worse things than that! Buck up, kiddo!   

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