Something Funny

Struts & Frets by Jon Skovron

Sammy Bojar plays guitar in Tragedy of Wisdom with a frightening and talentless lead singer (guess which member chose the name). Most of their practices end in a ragin' tantrum. It looks like a dead-end situation for Sammy and his crew, until a battle of the bands competition gives them a possible chance to record a song for radio play. As Sammy struggles to gain control of his songwriting career, he is helped by his paranoid jazz pianist grandfather and his old best friend/new girlfriend, Jen5. 

Jon Skovron’s debut novel Struts & Frets manages to be authentic in its language and characterization every step of the way. The book is littered with the sort of phrases and people that I can swear I heard and met in high school and at local concerts when I was a teen, right down to the friend who can play video game theme songs with his sweaty, sweaty hand-farts.

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

This past weekend, the film adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story opened in theaters across the country. Vizzini’s book centers on a smart teenager named Craig Gilner, who has had growing issues of anxiety and depression since joining an extremely selective, intense private high school in Manhattan. After obsessively studying and getting a perfect score on the entrance exam, Craig finds himself in way over his head, drowning in a sea of labs and math equations. Partying and pining for his best friend’s girl doesn’t help matters either.

Craig can’t sleep or eat. During an especially fitful day, he makes a decision to call 1-800-SUICIDE. Their suggestion for him to check into an emergency room brings Craig to Six North, a Brooklyn psychiatric hospital...for adults. There Craig finds a collection of people at least twice his age with a variety of mental issues. Strangely enough, he finds it incredibly easy to make friends. Craig starts to compare his issues to his new peers, and finds life in Six North to be simultaneously simpler and more complicated than his regular life. His own evaluation of life, friendships, and his doctors help to push Craig in a better direction.

I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

Let’s face it, people--this vampire craze might just be on its way out. Passé. Gone from undead to dead again. A new kind of hero has been taking their place. A powerful being with brains, creativity, and money on his side.  This is a new kind of hero for the ages: The Super-villain.

Josh Lieb’s new book, “I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President,” does not deal with a Lex Luthor from Superman or a Gru from Despicable Me. His main character, Oliver Watson, is still in the seventh grade, but his secret criminal empire is so strong that by the time he turns 18, world domination will be no big deal. In the meantime, he’s playing dumb….really dumb. From his peers to his parents, no one suspects that the class moron has been acting this whole time.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

 As The Strange Case of Origami Yoda begins, Tommy has two questions and two questions only. Those questions?  Is Origami Yoda for real? Not real as in he exists, but for real as in can this seemingly wise finger puppet predict the future? And secondly, is the advice Yoda has given Tommy (despite Origami Yoda being voiced by Dwight, the strangest kid in school) good advice or will it result in school wide humiliation? With these two questions in mind, Tommy begins a case study of the Origami Yoda - how he got his start, the kid behind it, and all the situations in which Yoda has been used for aid at McQuarrie Middle School. 

The book has cool illustrations and little details throughout – think Diary of a Wimpy Kid format – and they really capture the personalities of the characters in the book. There are more than a few funny Star Wars references that fans will delight in as well.   The writing and story really drew me in because the reader is able to ponder each situation and draw his or her own conclusion on the wisdom being dispatched by Origami Yoda. The author, Tom Angleberger, has captured the unique personalities and challenges faced by the middle-school crowd in a realistic and humorous way.