by Crystal Allen
First sentence: “Since Saturday, I’ve fried Sergio like catfish, mashed him like potatoes, and creamed his corn in ten straight games of bowling.”
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Lamar has got it going on. Sure, he lives in small-town Coffin, Indiana. Sure, he’s got asthma, which keeps him from playing champion basketball like his older brother Xavier. Sure, he’s 13 years old and doesn’t have a girlfriend (what’s the deal with 13-year-olds and girlfriends these days?). But he’s the King of Sriker’s bowling alley. He knows his game, he knows he’s good. He’s got it going on.
It’s frustrating, though, being 13-years-old and living in Xavier’s shadow. Everyone in town — their father included — respects, admires and cheers for Xavier. And Lamar? He’s just a bowler. The epitome of lame, even if he is the best in the town.
Enter Billy Jenks. Sure, he’s trouble, but he’s offering Lamar a chance to earn some money to get the dream bowling ball he’s always wanted, and maybe he’ll get some respect as well. And it seems like Billy is a kindred spirit (okay, so it wasn’t in those words exactly): he gets where Lamar’s coming from. He understands. Until it all goes south.
I was torn about this one: the characters were tough for me to like; I don’t know exactly why I was turned off by Lamar, but I was. I understand he was trying his best, doing his best, working towards things, but I just never connected. And I didn’t particularly like his friends, brother, or dad. (His eventual girlfriend, on the other hand, was a spitfire. Can we have a book about her please?) I did, however, like that when things went south, and Lamar’s actions have serious consequences and he faced them without blinking. No whining, no blaming. Just sucked it up, and took it.
However, while I liked that part, I did feel it veered into the saccharine at the end. Sure, a happy ending is nice, but this one seemed a bit, well, over the top. All love and happiness and goodness and lessons learned. It left me kind of… meh.
That said, I think it’s a good debut; I’ll be interested to see what Allen has to offer next.