Snarky, funny, quirky, and punny (funny, too), 12 Things To Do Before You Crash and Burn is a short but hilarious read that will attract reluctant boy readers--and maybe some girls, too. Laugh-out-loud antics and "boy" humor, bathroom jokes, and "bad" language make this suitable for high school readers.
Hercules Martino has just buried his father--oh, don't be sad, you see, Herc couldn't stand his father and calls him a number of expletives throughout the book. They have a dysfunctional relationship. Herc's father is a beloved, almost-Godlike, t.v. self-help coach and best-selling author who helps other families with their problems, but at home, he bullies and belittles his only son. Herc's mother is mortified when Herc gives a less than politically correct eulogy, so she ships him off to visit his Uncle Anthony, his father's brother.
Herc doesn't see what the big deal is--he was only telling the truth about his father. He decides two weeks with Uncle Anthony won't be so bad--even though his uncle lives in the most boring town in all of America. On the train there, Herc sees a gorgeous "older" woman--at least college age--and tries to flirt with her. He accidentally falls asleep and when he wakes, she's gone BUT she left her book on the train. Herc decides to find her somehow and return her lost book.
Uncle Anthony and Herc have a funny relationship--they get along famously, more like frat brothers than uncle and nephew. Anthony decides to give Herc a list of things to do so he won't get bored while Anthony is at work every day.
Day One is easy: choose a mission. Herc has already decided he must find the beautiful but unattainable girl from the train. Day two happens by accident: find the best pizza place in town. The tasks begin to get harder; when it comes to day seven, Herc has to go on seven job interviews. He decides to have some fun with this one. When interviewing with Starbucks, he fills in the application as name: "Juan Valdez" and states he wants compensated with, "only the finest hand-picked Colombian coffee beans." When he fills in the application at Super Tan, he writes "Mel Anoma" as his name and his favorite hobby is "baking." This is punny stuff!
On Day Eight, Herc is supposed to think Great Thoughts and write them down. One of Herc's entries is: "Baseball games are too long. Outlawing spitting and scratching one's crotch would cut off a few minutes from each game." Not exactly rocket science.
Herc is a believable, almost tragic, hero. His quest to find the girl becomes of monumental importance. When all his dreams finally come true, he finds himself walking on air. Sometimes things aren't as sweet as they seem and the higher the high just means you have farther to fall.
Reluctant readers with a sense of humor will love Herc and feel empathy when Herc is stood up. With only 121 pages, this is a quick read and the cover art will appeal to teens.
Recommended grades 9-up. Language, sex, mature content.
Reviewed by: Pamela Thompson, Library Media Specialist, Texas, USA
Visit Pamela's ya novels blog at http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/
"Day one: chose a mission. Day two: find the best pizza joint in town,. Day Three: Clean out the garage. Day four: muck the stalls at Riverbend Farm. Day five: Read a complete book under a tree. Day Six: Go to a place of worship and pray. Day seven: Go on seven job interviews. Day eight: Spend the day thinking big thoughts. Write them down. Day Nine: Eat a meal with a stranger. Day Ten: Make your uncle something. Day Eleven: Recite a poem at Blake’s Coffee Shop Midnight Poetry reading. Day Twelve: Complete your mission."
After his father, a famous self-help TV host, dies, 16 year old James “Hercules” Martino spends two weeks in Baltimore with his Uncle Anthony who gives him a list of “12 labors” to accomplish before the end of his visit. This is a brief yet satisfying guy book about grieving and choosing what is important. There is an abundance of mature language in this book as well as a sexual encounter.
Recommended by: Alice L. Cyphers, Librarian and Reading Specialist, Pennsylvania, USA