Monday, February 21, 2011

Male Monday: How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen (ARC)
Balzar + Bray/HarperCollins

Release Date: March 1, 2011

Rating: 4.5/5

IQ "But around two o'clock those curls droop and dangle as if Sergio's growing black noodles on his forehead and girls love that too. Once I tried some of that mousse stuff in my afro. I squirted a pile of that extra hold foam in my hand and rubbed it through my hair. For ten minutes, I waited for black noodles to dangle on my forehead. Instead my afro held an old-school slant as if me and Frederick Douglass had the same barber." Lamar pg. 24

Don't ask me why but the Incredible Quote tickled me pink, I actually burst out laughing. well ok, I know why. I've always been amused by Frederick Douglas's' hair, extraordinary guy, but oh man, that hair. *shakes head* Reminds me of Cornel West too. Anyway this book is about Lamar who is the baddest, maddest bowler at Striker's Bowling Paradise. He is King of Strikers. Sure Lamar is one of the best bowlers around, but he's not so great with girls, in fact he's constantly striking out with them. While Lamar is doing all his bowling, he also has to deal with his older brother, Xavier the Basketball Savior. Xavier is revered in their hometown of Coffin, Indiana and Lamar's father is quick to go to Xavier's basketball games and go over strategy with him, but it's been years since he bowled with Lamar. Lamar's tired of being ignored so when bad boy Billy Jenks invites him to take part in his bowling hustle, he accepts. Here's a way to make enough money doing something Lamar loves in order to buy a Pro Thunder (expensive pro ball) and maybe even impress his hero, famous bowler, Bubba Sparks. Oh and Lamar just may get the girl.

Some of the 'lingo' is rather cheesy in this book. In fact, at times it seemed outdated. On the very first page Lamar is listening to his best friend Sergio 'bump his gums'. I've never heard that expression before so I asked my dad who knows a lot of slang. He said that expression was older than he was (he grew up in the '80s), but hey, maybe it's popular in Indiana? There are a few other examples of really cheesy dialogue/comebacks but in the end, I think it all adds to Lamar's charm. I was amazed at Lamar's confidence, but being totally honest, it's not at all surprising. I think (for some reason) it's a lot less surprising to see a young and confident main character. In middle school, I think many guys think they are invincible, whereas many girls are a bit shyer. Regardless, Lamar reminded me of my brother and all the other young guys I know who love to trash talk. Although I did think Lamar's constant strutting was a bit much. The author juggles a lot of storylines and I do think the ball was dropped a few times. Each storyline is interesting and starts off well developed, but a couple were quickly wrapped up, much of the action occurring off the page (*cough* Sergio and Tasha *cough*). Lamar and his father clearly have issues they need to work out and everything seemed to get really happy really fast, but Lamar is just so gosh-darn adorable that you can't help but want him to have a cheesy ol' neat ending.

As you can probably tell, I love Lamar. I want to meet Lamar (actually I've already met Lamar and been annoyed by him but guys like Lamar seem less annoying in books). Lamar is one of the most well rounded characters I've come across. He has seriously debilitating asthma and he managed to tug at my heartstrings when he wanted to play soccer to impress a girl (Makeeda), but his doctor said that based on his health that was just not possible. I love soccer so I was able to sympathize with wanting to play (just not for the same reason) and I would be crushed too if I was told I couldn't play because of asthma. Lamar has two personalities, at home he is quiet, afraid of his brother, trying to help out his dad anyway he can since money is tight. Xavier borders on only being a jerk, with no shot at redemption, but there are enough minor details given to make Xavier slightly more well rounded. Lamar lives in absolute terror of X and it's not unjust, X has anger management and refuses to take his medication. But X's anger management is not used as an excuse for his meanness towards his brother and I appreciated that X does not get off easy. A person can only take so much before they snap and Lamar's breaking point is realistic and frustrating. Readers will be covering their eyes hoping that Lamar will not actually go through with his plan (encouraged by Billy Jenks), but unable to look away.

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy is a jolly, globful of laugh-loud (as Lamar would say) read that still manages to effectively portray more serious topics. Lamar's mother has died and his father has not exactly been a comforting presence to either of his boys. It was refreshing to see a contemporary book where the father wasn't outwardly cruel, instead Lamar's father is drowning. He's so busy working not just to keep food on the table, but to pay for a few luxuries. Lamar is working class/middle class, he's not going to go hungry, but his dad works a lot to make sure Lamar can bowl and Xavier can continue to play basketball. Unfortunately, he doesn't help Lamar with much else. There are underlying class issues as well. Lamar's best friend, Sergio is rich and he can't understand why Lamar joins in Billy's bowling hustle. But many readers can understand it. Sergio gets a lot of extra things, pocket money, nice clothes, two loving parents, etc. Lamar has his bowling pass and the same old clothes, who wouldn't get tired of always being around someone who has so much more? I had feared that Lamar would fall into a pity me trap since he seems relatively innocent but he gets himself into some severe (well severe for a thirteen year old) scraps and he is held accountable. The consequences kind of stink, even though they are realistic. In addition to Lamar's trash talking about his bowling skills (he's so proud of his bowling, awww), his falling in-like with Makeeda is great (it's so wrong but I almost cried when he saw Makeeda who has apparently changed significantly since he last saw her and he called her 'Fivehead' to her face. After he tried to step to her. Oh Lamar :) I want more books like this. Funny with a more unusual sport played and a diverse cast. Sergio is Latino, Lamar is Black, but their story is universal. In fact, there are only slight hints that Lamar is Black and I love that.

Disclosure: Received from Zetta, thank you!