Beach Reads is a summer meme, posted here every
weekend. It consists of quick, light reviews about books that
make good beach or backyard reading. Find out more here,
and feel free to post your own Beach Reads!
One Butt Cheek at a Time
Delacourte Press for Young Readers
The Gert Garibaldi's Rants and Raves series is what I imagine the Georgia Nicolson series to be like (sorta). There's a frenetic smart energy to it, and a frankness that will strongly appeal to some readers and strongly turn off others. (And I do mean strongly turn off. I wouldn't be surprised to hear about a parent reading this and pitching a fit, and calling for a banning.)
I'm not going to lie, it was a bit of a slow-starter for me. Gert is funny in the beginning and all, but she's sort of funny in that "too much, enough already" way. And she's got a decided bitter streak which, coupled with some whininess, was off-putting for me. I didn't really connect to her as much in the beginning and she was starting to actually get on my nerves and make me doubt I wanted to finish when suddenly - something changed. It's hard to explain without giving things away, but it's sort of like Gert is at that dreaded teenager stage where you haven't really come into your own yet, or even realized that it was a possibility, but you can't let the sharks scent blood in the water so you fake it, and mask it with this extreme nonchalance that borrows a bit from Asshole Land. We've all been there, we all go through it, but once you are through it, you don't necessarily want to revisit it.
Gert's got a lot of scorn, but much of it is borne from having a lot of questions. She's a little oblivious to her world and the reality of who she is (and she's completely oblivious to the fact that she may be oblivious - she thinks she's got it all pegged), so when things start changing and she has to open her eyes a bit and risk putting herself out there, she becomes much more likable. She still keeps her biting wit, but it becomes more universally funny and less whiny. Gert started opening up and growing, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book from then on. What really made it likable though was how unabashed Gert is. Part of it may be that she's still a little bit clueless, but part of it is this really fun mix of eagerness, curiosity, dubiousness and naiveté. She asks all of the questions that you wanted to ask but were too afraid to as a teen. Her narration and her rants are frank and often hilarious. I think many teens will connect to this and find their voice in Gert.
Now, I mentioned above that I can see this getting some very strong negative reactions. As I said, Gert is very unabashedly curious. There are frank (and frankly hilarious) discussions of masturbation, pubic hair maintenance, homosexuality, whether or not to ignore a boy's erection at a school dance, etc. Some teens may be uncomfortable having it all laid out on the table like this, and some parents will likely blow a gasket over the topics. But don't kid yourself: These are things that every teen thinks about. They may not think it as loudly as Gert, but it's hilariously realistic. Now, I'm not saying you should force yourself to read it if it makes you uncomfortable. And I'm not saying anything is gratuitous. But what it is is honest. Gert reminded me a bit of Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower; she's not as guileless as Charlie, but she is as hilariously (and innocently) unfiltered. I don't think most people will have a problem with this once they get to know Gert, but it does bear mentioning.
[Also, one tiny little pet peeve of mine: I haaated the font choice for the Rants sections and page numbering. It was almost illegible.]
All in all, I think you can probably tell from this review whether this is the type of book for you. If it is, give Gert a chance - though she may annoy you in the beginning, I promise you will grow to love her and find yourself choking on your own surprised laughter along the way.