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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach

Title: Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders
Author: Geoff Herbach
ISBN: 9781402291418
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Released: May 6, 2014
Page #: 311
Source: ARC from the publisher

"From 'One of the most real, honest, and still funny male voices to come around in a while,' (YALSA) comes a brand-new cast of quirky characters, pitting self-effacing fat boy Gabe against an upstart dance squad in a battle over control of the school's soda machine.

When the machine's funds - previously collected by the band - mysteriously begin funneling to the already over-privileged dancers, the war is ON! And suddenly the leader of the band geeks is none other than the funny fat kid Gabe, who's sunk low enough that he allows even his best friend and teachers to call him 'Chunk.' No one will be safe from the Geekers odd brand of wrath: not the principal, the band teacher, the local newspaper, and certainly no the cheerleaders and their jock boyfriends."
First Lines: (Quote from the galley. See final version for accuracy.)

"Ripping off the pop machine last night wasn't meant to be funny. It was my duty to all the geeks, burners, and oddballs in school because that machine sucks. Robbing it was serious business, okay?"
Page 1

Band geeks. Burners. Oddballs. Cheerleaders. Jocks. Fat Kids. Fit Kids. One Vending Machine. One War.

Gabe has been arrested for robbing a vending machine. He never expected things to get so out of hand. People are egging houses, beating each other up, throwing rocks through windows... there is general havoc. Gabe just wants the band program to be recognized and funded. This is his story of how he tries to start a movement.

As a self-respecting Southerner, the term "pop" when discussing soda grates on my nerves like almost nothing else. I'm sorry to say that "pop" is the term used in this book. And it's used a lot. I mean, we're talking about a soda machine... of course they're gonna talk about it the whole time. But it made my lip curl every, single time. I'm hoping that doesn't color my actual thoughts on this story, though. Just know that I'm trying to put that aside.

The format of this story is very unique. You're starting this book after all of the action has taken place. You know that Gabe has robbed the machine. He's been caught. Now you're getting his story while he's sitting behind a table at a police station. It's his narrative about what happened. But it's a one-sided conversation. The voice of the interviewer/police officer is never heard. It's like he's talking to himself. There are answers to his questions, but you only know the answer by his reply. There are big swaths of time that you forget about it... until he addresses the interviewer directly. I'm not sure if I liked this, honestly. I wished to hear the other side of things as well... not just the one side of the conversation.

That being said, I loved the overall concept of the story. The band fighting back against the school and the cheerleaders to restore their funding. As a band alum, this obviously warms my heart. Gabe doesn't set out to become the leader, but he seems to be the only person who understands what is happening. So he starts making plans and figuring out ways to protest. They aren't exactly the ways I would protest, but they're still effective. He also starts meeting new people and changing his outlook on life. It's definitely a story about transformation - not just of Gabe, but of their town.

I know that funding in schools is a big topic right now. It's nice to see someone get incensed over it. Of course, the small town setting helps out with that. Cannot imagine a riot happening because of one school in a big district. But that's neither here nor there. There are a few times that the characters mention that it isn't because the money is being given to the dance squad, but that it was taken from them without any sort of vote or hearing. It's all about the fairness of the whole thing. And I think that was a smart way to phrase things. All extracurricular activities are important, but they have to be treated the same way.

I haven't read anything else by this author, but I've heard of his other stuff. I may have to check it out. But I think this book is going to appeal to teens who get excited about social change and clubs in school. That's probably a narrow group, but I think it also has enough humor and family drama to pull in quite a few readers. Plus, the cover is bright and fun! What better way to invite readers in?! :) 
Other Blog Reviews:

Sunk Treasure
Young Adult Books - What We're Reading Now

The Excessive Baking Book Lover

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