You know that part in Toy Story where Buzz says to Woody: “You’re a sad, strange, little man”? Well, change “man” to “book” and that about sums up Gary Paulsen’s Lawn Boy. (It’s not really “sad” either. But it is strange and little.)
The plot is really simple: this 12-year-old kid (I don’t even know his name) gets an old riding lawn mover from his Grandma for his birthday. He started mowing his lawn… and got a job mowing his neighbor’s. And then another job and another. He ends up (purely by chance) with a stockbroker, a mowing crew, sponsoring a prize fighter and making, by the end of the summer, $480,000. Um. Yeah, I wrote that right.
I suppose some found this funny… I just found it rather odd. Maybe it’s partially because I felt like this book could just be an expanded pamphlet for the miracle of capitalist economics. It didn’t help that the chapter titles (most likely meant to be taken ironically) included ones like: “The Growth of Capitalism” and Overutilization of Labor Compounded by Unpredicted Capital Growth” and “Business and the ARt of Creative Misrepresentation”. Even so, the things that happened to this kid were, um, a bit on the unbelievable side. As I’m writing this, I realize that they’re supposed to be; that it’s supposed to be larger-than-life, that we’re supposed to smile and laugh and wink at the whole thing.
It just didn’t work that way for me.