Jul 13, 2012

Guest Post: Rule-Breakers in Young Adult Novels for Boys by Ed Briant (+Giveaway)

I Am (Not) The Walrus by Ed Briant
July 8th, 2012 from Flux Books

Toby and Zack’s first gig could make or break their Beatles cover band, the Nowhere Men. But ever since getting dumped by his girlfriend, lead singer Toby can’t quite pull off the Beatles’ feel-good vibe. When Toby finds a note hidden inside his brother’s bass claiming the instrument was stolen, he embarks on a quest to find the true owner—and hopes a girl named Michelle will help him recover his lost mojo along the way.

Music is such a big part of a young person's life, and I love when books let music take center stage. When you throw in Beatles references and UK slang, I'm a little more quick to give the story a try. When Toby thinks his coveted bass is stolen property, he is torn between returning the bass to its rightful owner (if there really is one) or just forgetting what he knows. Things take a turn for the worse when other people start setting their sites on the bass. I really enjoyed the positive friendships between Toby and his bandmates. They are understanding and supportive. It's nice to read about young boys who lift each other up and don't rely on name calling and snide humor all of the time. Toby's relationship with his mother is also refreshing. She is down to earth and treats Toby like an equal voting partner. Young Beatles fans will love this fast, dialogue driven story with a touch of smoochie scenes and mystery.

Check out Briants original illustrations inspired by your favorite Beatles songs:
You can find Briant at his website and at Flux
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I'm happy to have Briant on the blog today chatting about "Rule-Breakers in Young Adult Novels for Boys!" Stay tuned for a giveaway at the end of this post!

“If you don’t respect authority now,” said my classmate, Mahmoud Dewshi, “you’ll never respect authority for the rest of your life.”

Mahmoud had stumbled on our lunchtime poker game behind the gym at my high school, Brighton College, in the south of England. We were smoking Gauloises cigarettes and playing five card stud with our lunch money, when we should have been chowing down toad-in-the-hole in the school cafeteria.

Even then I knew perfectly well that the rules prohibiting smoking and gambling were really quite sound, but the all-boys school also enforced a lot of rules that seemed far less rational.

For example, boys’ hair had to be cut short enough that it was off the collar at the back, and off the ears at the sides.

Long hair for guys wasn’t specifically in fashion at this point in history, but because it was forbidden it became essential. If you wanted to be considered cool you had to have hair long enough to show contempt for the school rules.

Two of my poker buddies, Rennie Leach and Matthew Clark, took this to an extreme. They went out and bought short-hair wigs. Each morning they would pin their hair up under the wigs, and then spend the day at school wearing these wigs while their real hair grew longer and longer underneath.

Soon Rennie and Matthew’s real hair hung about a foot below their collars. The problem was that as their real hair grew longer, the wigs came under more and more pressure from underneath, and soon, when the boys were wearing their wigs they no longer looked as though they had short hair. Instead they looked as though they had the kind of bouffant hairdos that Dusty Springfield and Doris Day had sported in the 1960’s.

It must have been pretty uncomfortable too, because they started taking off the wigs in the evening as soon as they were outside the school gates, and someone must have seen them.

One afternoon Matthew was opening the batting for an inter-school cricket tournament, when the headmaster, a pompous bully by the name of Blackshaw, marched onto the field. He grabbed Matthew by the shoulder, tore his wig off, right in front of the other school’s team, and marched him off to be inexpertly shorn by the school nurse.

Apparently Rennie was apprehended at almost the same moment in a different part of the school by the assistant master. The headmaster probably felt pretty pleased with his public demonstration of school discipline, but really it was Rennie and Matthew who became the heroes of the story.

Obviously we need policemen, and judges, and even headmasters to enforce the rules that we need to have in order for the world to work. But we love our rule-breakers more than we love our enforcers, especially when the rules in question seem unnecessary. What’s more, we love our rule-breakers in real life, but we love them even more in fiction.

If my old school really wanted to instill respect for authority then perhaps they should have given us different books to read in English Lit classes. If they wanted us to be meek and submissive then why introduce us to such rebellious characters as Pinkie Brown (Brighton Rock), Billy Pilgrim (Slaughterhouse-Five), and Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye)?

I’ve never been back to my old school, and I have no idea what’s now on the English Lit curriculum. No doubt the school still enforces pointless rules at the same time as encouraging the students to read about such characters as: Ender Wiggins of Ender’s Game, a habitual rule-breaker who doesn’t even follow the laws of gravity; Thomas from The Maze Runner, who brings a girl into the male-only glade; or Ed Kennedy in I Am the Messenger.

For my money, the greatest of all YA rule-breakers has to be Marcelo Sandoval in Francisco Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World. Marcelo suffers from a mild form of autism. His father believes that Marcelo has been coddled in his special school, and decides that a few months spent as an intern in his father’s law-office will turn him into a fully functioning member of society. In a twist of irony, Marcelo is thrust into a world where cheating, lying, and swindling are the rules. Marcelo’s gentle rebellion is to be fair, honest, and even-handed, with disastrous results for his father.

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy to one lucky US/CAN resident! Fill out the fancy doo-hickey below to be officially entered.

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