Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sold on Wallace Wallace

As all good writers know, the combination of a a flashy cover plus a shocking title can be the best marketing ploy--and no one knows this better than Gordon Korman.

No More Dead Dogs, with its bold red title sprayed across a canary-yellow cover (featuring a German Shepherd--belly up),lures readers into the uproarious story of Wallace Wallace, a typical 8th grader in every way but one: he refuses to tell a lie.

As a teacher, I immediately thought: "Oh, okay, I get it-- this is going to turn out to be a story about a kid with Autism" (we in the biz are conditioned to classify every little quirk as a possible symptom these days). Nope. Motivated solely by the fact that his deadbeat father is a world-class liar, Wallace Wallace commits himself to a life of honesty; for better, or for worse.

The story is nicely balanced. Most memorable, perhaps, are a series of events that range from painfully awkward to painfully hilarious. But,then, neatly woven into the slapstick is the tale of a reluctant football star-turned reluctant drama nerd, upsetting social balances at every stop along the way.

I really liked this book, for a lot of reasons. Young Adult Literature is a genre earmarked with self-importance. No More Dead Dogs is a novel that never takes itself too seriously. The comedy scenes (of which there are many) are un-apologetically goofy. The dialog is gimmicky and superficial-- much like that of the adolescents with whom I deal daily. To put it simply: No More Dead Dogs does a damn good job making itself appealing to the target audience while managing to tell a solid, enriching story at the same time.

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