Hey guys it’s Sam, and welcome to the long-awaited return of Jolly Good Bookie! Now, Diary of a Wimpy Kid could easily be the most popular realistic fiction novel of all time; it has inspired a colossus of merchandise including a 3-part movie series, and it has inspired a countless number of realistic fiction titles in its wake. “Wimpy Kid clones”, I like to call them. I’ve read tons of them: Dork DiariesBig Nate, Origami Yoda, and pretty much every Andrew Clements book, most notably Lunch Money.

Now, few realistic fiction authors do it right like Kinney did; for example, Lunch Money is one of my favorite realistic fiction books. So is The School Story, also written by Clements. Most authors go wrong attempting to make their story as derivative as possible, while not paying any heed to flaws like a thin plot or poor characterization. I can list so many books that have failed to do exactly this, and most have ended up on my list of the worst books of all time. The Loser List by HN Kowitt was a standout example of this. Its plot practically screamed Wimpy Kid: the middle school misadventures of a boy obsessed with comics. I read this book a while back, and here’s what I had to say about it:

“This book is an average Wimpy Kid decoy, and believe me, I’ve read tons of those (Dork Diaries, Big Nate, etc.), so I feel almost BAD for Mr. Kinney that tons of publishers couldn’t come up with anything original. And that’s what makes The Loser List…well…a loser! The storyline is cumbersome, the illustrations are rough-felt if not violent (save for the picture where a kid got ripped in half), and it feels like just an average walk in the park, trip on the rock, and dip in the fountain.”

But I guess the story was successful enough that Kowitt made two sequels, turning Loser List into an official series. This is sequel #1, so let’s see if Kowitt brought homemade to the table, or just went out and bought some pancake mix?

“Ty Randall must die.”

In a world full of Wimpy Kid doppelgangers, there’s Danny Shine. He’s returned, he’s ready, and he’s out for revenge! In Revenge of the Loser, Shine has successfully gotten his name off of the Loser List in the girls’ bathroom. But he quickly discovers that the List has become the least of his problems–his radar is focused on Ty Randall, a new kid with two six packs–one of muscle, and one of green tea. He’s contributed to more school programs than Danny cares to remember, with the main focus being on helping the environment. So for good measure, Ty’s a hippie. He’s attracting all of the girls at lunch like a magnet with his handsome looks and his serious tone. Even Danny’s secret crush, Asia O’Neill, is falling head over heels. The jealousy just builds up to the point where Danny snaps and concocts a complex plan to do Ty justice, but unfortunately true colors are shown and Danny must desperately repair the damage before it’s too late.

Revenge of the Loser definitely has something new to offer, and the story does focus more on itself than some goofy drawings or copying and pasting from Wimpy Kid. The infamous bathroom wall graffiti does return, but that’s probably as rogue as ROTL ever gets. Well, Chantal is kind of a gold-hearted jerk who shows her true hero at the end. But besides all of these new concepts, Revenge of the Loser is almost the exact same as its predecessor. At least the plot is structured better.

It somewhat pains me to say it, but I think Danny Shine has finally done Wimpy Kid justice. There, I said it myself. Revenge of the Loser comes packed with humor and heart–albeit derivative humor and heart–and definitely puts its predecessor in the shadows. Now, let’s just see if they can keep that up for Jinx of the Loser, or better yet, Take Me To Your Loser, hitting stores this September.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★

IF YOU LIKED THAT, CHECK OUT:

  • Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald
  • Lunch Money by Andrew Clements
  • Big Nate In A Class By Himself by Lincoln Peirce
  • Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson
  • The Last Invisible Boy by Evan Kuhlman

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Because I love my fans, I’ll make this a Jolly Good Bookie double feature! Carpe diem, baby! Anyway, what if A Series of Unfortunate Events met Mysterious Benedict Society? The result would probably be School of Fear, the young-audience debut of Gitty Daneshvari. The novel takes place at a very shady institution that few people have heard of, called the School of Fear. Run by Mrs. Wellington and her assistant Schmidty, the main goal of the School of Fear is to eradicate children’s fears over the course of a summer using “unorthodox” methods. This summer’s students are Theo Bartholomew, Madeleine Masterson, Garrison Feldman, and Lulu Punchalower. Theo is terrified of general death, Maddie of bugs (notably spiders), Gary of deep water, and Lulu of confined spaces.

I loved the ominous and gothic feel of the story as it went along, and how it mixed its dark chills and clever thrills with some quality laughs to keep the prose fresh. The story is exciting albeit predictable and tedious, and definitely one I do not regret reading when I find myself awake at 7 in the morning. (No, it’s not insomnia.) It showed that a good way–if not the only way–to face your fears is to tackle them head on, and it shows how difficult life can be while crippled by phobias. This is a good book to relate to; all humans really are afraid of something.

However, to me it frankly started to fall apart around and following the shocking climax; I found myself lost in the prose quite frequently on numerous occasions. I also kept asking myself if they were ever going to conquer their fears, but luckily Daneshvari has several aces up her sleeve to shrewdly guide the story. Other than that, School of Fear is a pretty tense and exciting adventure with underachieving predictability and noticeable tedium. I would definitely read the other two sequels in the trilogy–in fact, I have my hands on Class Is NOT Dismissed as I type, and as you read.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★★

IF YOU LIKED THAT, CHECK OUT:

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket and Brett Helquist
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
  • The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
  • Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail and Matthew Cordell

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Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? Be sure to tune in same time next Friday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy,

~S~ 😎

Videos of the Week: “THE PERFECT BOYFRIEND?” and “HOW TO BE A SALAD!” by PewDiePie. I wonder if he’ll become the most-subbed channel on YouTube by the end of the summer. I’M BETTING YOU, FOLKS!

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