Trash Can Days: A Middle School Saga (A Trash Can Days)

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9781423166320: Trash Can Days: A Middle School Saga (A Trash Can Days)


Jake Schwartz is not looking forward to middle school. Puberty feels light years away, he's not keen on the cool clothes or lingo, and he has the added pressure of preparing for his bar mitzvah. The only saving grace is that Danny Uribe, his lifelong best friend, will be by his side....

Or will he? Since Danny's summer growth spurt, there's been a growing distance between him and Jake. Danny is excited to explore all that junior high has to offer--especially the girls (and most notably Hannah, Jake's older sister). But gang life has its allure, and he soon finds himself in over his head.

Meanwhile, Hannah is dealing with her own problems; being Queen Bee is not easy. The other girls are out for blood, and boys are so...exhausting. Danny surprises her with his maturity, but can her reputation survive if she's linked to a sevvy? And what would Jake think about his sister hooking up with his best friend?

Dororthy Wu could not care less about junior high drama. She is content staying in her bedroom and writing epic stories of her adventures as a warrior mermaid maiden. But that changes when she discovers the school's writing club. There, she meets a young lad with heroic potential and decides that life outside of her fantasy world just might have some appeal.

In the course of one year at San Paulo Junior High, these four lives will intersect in unique and hilarious ways. Friendships will grow and change. Reputations will transform. And someone will become a man.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Teddy Steinkellner (www.teddysteinkellner.com) graduated from Stanford University in 2011, where he won a creative arts grant. Trash Can Days: A Middle School Saga is his first novel. He lives in Los Angeles, California. Follow him on Twitter at @teddysteinkelln.

Review:

Gr 7-9 At the beginning of seventh grade, best friends Jake and Danny are growing apart. At first the changes are common enough: Danny hits puberty before Jake and starts to look older, and entering junior high school means making new friends. But the rift becomes deeper as Danny begins to associate with members of a local gang and distances himself from Jake, who, as he puts it, is "about as far away from gangster as you can get, since he's white and nerdy and emotional and stuff." As Danny gets sucked into gang culture, he also begins a secret relationship with Jake's popular sister, Hannah, and eventually the two worlds cannot help but touch, with dramatic consequences. Chapters narrated by different characters, as well as interspersed status updates and online chats, may appeal to reluctant readers. At times funny and superficial, at times serious, the story is about friendship, family, and how the choices kids make can affect who they become. The pacing is steady, the tone is mostly light despite some serious content, and there is occasional vulgar language. Emma Burkhart, Springside School, Philadelphia, PA SLJ"

Four middle-school students narrate this exploration of friendship, relationships, and class in California. Jake Schwartz is nervous about starting seventh grade, but at least his best friend Danny Uribe, whose parents live and work at Jake's family's mansion, will be at his side. But Danny decides he wants some space from Jake, both to reconnect with his Latino cousins and to pursue Hannah, Jake's older sister. Eighth-grader Hannah, meanwhile, is obsessed with gossip until she becomes the subject of it, and socially awkward, unrepentantly geeky Dorothy Wu lives vicariously through the fantasy stories she writes while pining for Jake. Debut novelist Steinkellner uses IM conversations, Facebook posts, school bulletins, emails, and text message exchanges to flesh out the kids' complicated lives, pulling in everything from gang pressures and ethnic tensions to hurtful gossip and even the administrative pushback their new English teacher is facing. In a story that's funny, crass, painful, and optimistic, Steinkellner skillfully juggles a large cast, giving even minor characters distinctive voices and making their disappointments and growth feel real. Ages 10 14. PW"

Good news for readers with short attention spans: Picking up this novel is like reading several books at once. It begins as a realistic story about middle school. The problem is that it's exactly like middle school. It's full of pointless gossip, casual bigotry, and romances that stop and start without a second thought. Anyone who's spent time in an actual middle school may slam the covers shut. Fortunately, 11 pages into the book, Dorothy Wu shows up. Dorothy indulges huge crushes on video game characters. She uses the expression "Holy Table," because she doesn't want to glorify "cows" or "smokes" or "molys." The other characters are never quite as appealing, but as the story progresses, their personalities start to change. The school's gossip blogger, for example, develops a social conscience. For most of its second half, the book is everything a middle school novel should be: funny, dramatic and quite moving. Then it changes again, turning awkwardly sentimental in the last several chapters. And once in a while, it becomes a jarring, violent story about gang warfare. But no one who reads those sections of the book will ever join a gang. Some readers will get whiplash, but any time they're not enjoying the book, all they need to do is flip a few pages. (Fiction. 10-14) Kirkus"

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