cover image Funny Little Monkey

Funny Little Monkey

Andrew Auseon, . . Harcourt, $17 (298pp) ISBN 978-0-15-205334-5

A four-foot two-inch high school freshman narrates this darkly comic debut novel. Arty Moore's diminutive stature and general meekness seem all the more striking when compared with his six-foot one-inch, bullying twin, Kurt. The boys attend Millard Fillmore High, which Arty paints as an institution that amplifies the strangest and most painful aspects of adolescence (bulletins from the school newspaper interrupt the narrative, flaunting over-the-top news and ads: "Work at Southworth Mall —Who needs school? Working is where it's at! Call 555-CASH"). In the twins' tense relationship, Kurt lashes out at his brother physically, Arty verbally. The boys' single mother tries to keep the family together: "Mom used to have the ability to see through Kurt's crap. It came from having married Dad [who].... went on to steal a car and rob a pharmacy.... she's been trying to prevent a rerun with Kurt ever since." Meanwhile, Arty strikes up a friendship with Leslie Dermott, a wealthy, beautiful overachiever, and a kid he nicknames Kerouac, the leader of some rebellious outcasts. At Arty's request, Kerouac's gang torments Kurt, and after Kurt is accused of destroying a statue of the school's mascot, Arty begins to doubt his new friendships—and must face the pain he and his brother have caused each other. The author taps into the painful experience of high school, leavened with healthy doses of hyperbole, hope and wry humor—which Auseon seems to understand just may be the best tools for teenage survival. Ages 14-up. (June)