Benjamin Lebert, Author, Carol Brown Janeway, Translator Alfred A. Knopf $17.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-375-40913-4
Boarding school antics and teenage epiphanies fuel this slim but entertaining runaway German bestseller (more than 200,00 copies sold), an autobiographical debut by Lebert, who's 16. Benjamin, the novel's protagonist, is also 16, a misfit who must struggle against a near-paralysis of his left side and a chronic lack of academic aptitude to merely get through life. Having flunked out of four schools before the novel's beginning, he comes to Neuseelen, his fifth, where he must graduate from ninth grade or else. He quickly befriends a set of similarly maladjusted teens; together, they search the school grounds for excitement. When such limited pleasures as after-hours booze and raunchy teen sex wear thin, they head for Munich, where they are guided by a wise old man (who claims to sing ""the song of life"") to a strip club for a night of drink and debauchery. As the book moves toward its end, Benjamin flunks out yet again and is sent home, without any sign that school or life have taught him anything. Lebert's knowing yet ingenuous voice and the flatness of his exposition give character to his tale, but the action revolves around the cliches of adolescent life. Although the characters are likable and also quite believable, they don't grow substantially from their coming of age. Ultimately most interesting as a publishing phenomenon--Lebert's insights into human psychology, society and development are understandably limited--the novel moves along at a good clip, and what it lacks in depth it does make up for in animation and verve. Rights sold in Denmark, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, the U.K., France, Spain, Norway, Finland, Slovenia, Estonia, Croatia, Brazil, Greece, Taiwan, Portugal, Poland, Sweden; Turkey, Israel, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 978-3-462-02818-8
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-33881-3
Prebound-Other - 978-0-606-28821-7
Open Ebook - 92 pages - 978-0-307-42537-9
Paperback - 146 pages - 978-86-09-00865-8
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-375-70831-2
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