I am not kidding when I say that this is probably one of the best books that I have ever read. I am however a little surprised about it.
First of all, this book more or less came into my hands out of nowhere. I mean, Jordan Sonnenblick did write some other semi-well-known books that straddle the line between middle grade and YA, but I haven't read a single one of them. Sure, it was picked as a Best Book for Young Adults, but so were "Twilight" and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" and a couple of other books I am not particularly fond of (though there are a ton of amazing books on the list as well). And compared to "Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie," nobody has heard of this one. So even though I picked it up at the library on a whim, I figured it would be just a cutesy and pleasant temporary diversion with no lasting impact. Boy, was I wrong.
Everything about this book, the tone, the characters, the plot and its twists and turns, is expertly constructed. I was stunned by it all. I was expecting, considering the plot, that it would be a mass of Jerry Spinelli-imitating quirks and weirdness and attempts at humor and charm without much effect. While it is quirky and lighthearted, it's never overbearing and always real. And never predictable, by the way. Honestly, I was surprised by some of the places the book went in its travels.
I loved the characters. Alex is one of the most interesting "everyman" kind of characters that I've ever come across, and Sol is quite possibly the funniest cranky old man in the history of literature. Also, he's genuinely wise, as opposed to the "pretending to be wise but not actually being it" trait that tends to pop up in this kind of story. Though maybe it's a little unsurprising that he happens to know a lot about the kind of subjects Alex deals with, it doesn't really matter in the end. Especially not when there's a love interest like Laurie, who despite being Alex's best friend is more than just the girl next door in the end.
I cried a little bit at the end, if I remember correctly (it's been a while since I read it). I wouldn't really call it a sad book, nor would I call the ending unexpected. Still, this is one of those books that earns its tears, its laughs, its cheers, etc. This is a great book for anybody. You could pick this book up, know not a single thing about it, and love it to pieces. That's sort of what happened to me. What else can I say? Go out and get it, right now. It is just that good.