cover image The Fracking King

The Fracking King

James Browning. Little A/New Harvest, $23 (208p) ISBN 978-0-544-26299-7

Environmentalist Browning delivers a playful debut about a serious subject: fracking. High school junior Winston Crwth is a genius with words and a Scrabble prodigy. Win is friendless, however, and Scrabble is banned at his new school in Hale, Pa.—the most recent of three he’s attended in as many years. To make matters worse, he soon learns that at the less-than-loving school, class is mandatory on Saturdays, he must pass a swim test with his limbs bound, and there are no girls. The good news is that Win gets a full-ride “Dark Scholarship” to the school, endowed by the Dark Oil & Gas company, which is responsible for fracking in the area. Eventually, with the support of Mr. Urlacher, the poet laureate of Pennsylvania; Urlacher’s nearly illiterate son Rich; and the headmaster’s daughter, Thomasina, Win repeals the ban on Scrabble. He is able to compete in the Pennsylvania State Scrabble Championship, where he meets the president of Dark Oil & Gas and the governor—and has a chance to change the dangerous situation in Hale. Browning effortlessly translates his passion for environmental change into a rousing, witty, and enlightening tale of outsiders and Scrabble. That the author gets his environmental message across without sidetracking Win’s journey is a testament to his ability as a storyteller.[em] (July) [/em]