I Can't Believe I Have to Do This

Jan Alford, Author Putnam Publishing Group $16.99 (180p) ISBN 978-0-399-23130-8
In this jaunty but disjointed first novel, 13-year-old Dean Matthews wants his parents to butt out--that is, until he needs their protection. Dean's at a confusing stage: his best friend is suddenly starting to get drunk, his mom seems too old to be having a baby, girls are a mystery and so is science class. The novel authentically captures the vibrant thoughts and careless actions of adolescent boys. However, the 46 chapters often read like separate vignettes (e.g., in one, his mother has a miscarriage, which affects the family for a couple of days, but soon seems forgotten; in another, Dean persuades his parents to let him get his ear pierced, then it's not discussed again). The importance attached to these events may be confusing for readers; when everything is given equal weight, it's difficult to see what the story is building toward. Also, since the book is told in Dean's first-person narrative, the diary entry at the start of each chapter seems unnecessary (and especially devised to underscore Dean's epiphany when he realizes he's been hanging around with the wrong kids). The final third of the book is strongest, when Dean slips into legal trouble while blaming everyone else for his problems, and, although his parents cannot bail him out, they do stand by him. Readers who stick with the novel will be rewarded by the strong conclusion, in which the consequences of Dean's weak choices become frighteningly clear. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 180 pages - 978-0-698-11785-3
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-16801-4
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-19374-0
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