cover image 33 Minutes

33 Minutes

Todd Hasak-Lowy, illus. by Bethany Barton. S&S/Aladdin, $15.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4424-4500-0

Adult author Hasak-Lowy (Captives) makes his middle-grade debut with an entertaining story about the shifting nature of friendship. Sam and Morgan used to be best friends, but a new kid named Chris has driven them apart, with Morgan joining the football team and becoming one of the most popular seventh graders. As the novel opens, the titular countdown to the moment when Morgan is scheduled to beat up Sam has begun, and Sam’s flashbacks to the events surrounding their friendship’s dissolution intermix with that last half hour of safety at school. The supporting cast is only lightly developed, and Chris comes across as a one-dimensional villain, rather than the more complex character that his background suggests (readers learn, for instance, that his parents are seldom around). Nonetheless, Hasak-Lowy gives Sam an amusingly discursive narrative voice (on getting his “butt kicked”: “[I]f you knew someone was going to kick you some place, would you not hope for that place to be your butt?”) through which he dissects the middle school experience and his loss of a friend. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Jan.)