cover image 12 Things to Do Before You Crash and Burn

12 Things to Do Before You Crash and Burn

James Proimos. Roaring Brook, $14.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-59643-595-7

Time and again, picture-book creator Proimos has demonstrated a rock-solid sense of humor and outside-the-box thinking. His first book for teens is no different, opening a promising new chapter in his career. Sixteen-year-old James Martino, nicknamed Hercules, is spending the summer in Baltimore with his Uncle Anthony, who has given him a list of 12 tasks to accomplish (one even involves cleaning a stable). It’s meant to stave off boredom and maybe help Hercules deal with the recent death of his father, a beloved self-help author and talk-show host. Beloved by all but Hercules, that is, who eulogizes his father thusly: “He was an ass.” In chapters lasting just a page or so, Hercules gives a blunt and blisteringly funny account of his misadventures (“Horses are running everywhere. We are in the jeep. Chasing them. Through streets. Through other people’s farms. Through hell and high water, really”), which revolve around his efforts to reconnect with a “Strange Beautiful Unattainable Woman” from the train to Baltimore. Proimos fully inhabits the mind and voice of his hero, whose almost mythic journey offers moments hilarious, heartbreaking, and triumphant. Ages 14–up. (Nov.)