Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Review of "The Last Boy At St. Edith's"

The Last Boy At St. Edith's by Lee Gjertsen Malone.  February 26, 2016.  Aladdin.  272 pages.  Ages 8-12.

Jeremy Miner find himself in the unfortunate position of being the only boy, not only in the seventh grade, but in the whole school, a result of St. Edith's failed experiment at going co-ed in an effort to boost their declining enrollment. Initially there were around fifty boys, but one-by-one they left, leaving Jeremy as the only boy among 475 girls.  His mother says transferring is not an option, as she does not want him in public school, and they could not afford to pay tuition at any of the other private schools.

But Jeremy is desperate to get out of St. Edith's and go somewhere else where he could have guy friends, play sports, and do "guy stuff."  He finally decides his only recourse is to get kicked out of school.  He rules out setting a fire (too dangerous), starting a fight (who's he going to fight in a school full of girls), and flunking out (would take too long).  Finally, his friend Claudia comes up with an idea and offers to help:  pulling pranks.  But they have to be sure the pranks would get Jeremy in enough trouble to get kicked out, but not enough trouble to keep him from getting into another school.  Additionally, Jeremy says they mustn't hurt or humiliate anyone, or cause any permanent changes or damage.

Claudia comes up with the first prank, "borrowing" garden gnomes from homes all over town and putting them all in front of the school.  But their pranks begin to go awry, causing property damage and putting people in serious danger, and then someone else pranks them, exposing their involvment.  Now Jeremy finds the prospect of getting expelled all to likely, and begins to reconsider if that's what he really wants.

My Thoughts 
This book is okay, but it didn't "wow" me.  It is a decent light read for a tween audience, but it seemed a little too superficial, and had some points that really bugged me.  I would recommend it for a tween who just wants a quick, light-hearted read, though many might have a little trouble relating to the whole private school thing, particularly in my area, as most kids here go to public school.


At first I found the main character to be likable, but as the story progressed I found myself disgusted at his cowardice in letting his sister and her volleyball team take the blame for one of his pranks gone wrong, and at his lack of sense in thinking locking people IN the classrooms and bathroom was a harmless prank.  I also didn't like how he took his long-time friend Emily for granted, and let his other, new and "cooler" friends make fun of her and didn't stand up for her.  

The ending also just seemed a bit ridiculous.  He is about to get expelled or worse, then Claudia rushes in to take the blame for everything.  And she just gets a smack on the wrist, for the exact same thing he would have been expelled for!  It is explained away as being because her family is wealthy and donates a significant amount of money to the school.  It was just all too easy and neat.  There should have been more conflict and angst and they both should have gotten more serious consequences considering how much damage they caused and how much danger they potentially put people in with their last pranks.

This is Lee Gjertsen Malone's debut novel.

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