Dull Boy

I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover but I often do. Or rather I let an intriguing cover lure me in and give the book a try. I was at the library the other day when I saw the title of Sarah Cross' Dull Boy, which sounded interesting, then when I took the book off the shelf and saw the image of a boy speeding through the air I thought hmm, this could be my kind of book. And indeed it was. Fast paced, conflicted characters, mishap after mishap – what's not to like?

Being a teenager is hard work. Your body is changing, your hormones are in an uproar, affecting your skin, your moods and everything else, and you're always short on sleep because there's never enough time to get everything done. You're supposed to be choosing your life's path while figuring out what's important and trying to fit in while somehow managing not to be a clone of everyone else. It's already easy enough to feel alienated and freakish so when Avery's body starts to really change and he can suddenly do things like dead lift his mother's car, he's consumed with anxiety and guilt. He doesn't mean to break his friend's bones when they were wrestling, or pop a basketball while defending a little boy from bullies, or do any of the other things his out of control strength forces him to do. He's miserable and terrified to touch anyone. If only he can do some good deeds maybe it will make up for his mistakes and Hulk-like mayhem.

Unfortunately Avery's good deeds don't turn out the way he wants them to. Somehow they always go wrong, leaving him feeling like a massive screw-up and saddling his parents with enormous repair/replacement bills. Things come to a head when his friends prank him, pretending they want a retro birthday party like the ones they had when they were little, while really having a big party at another location, and he loses his cool, destroying his cell phone in front of some interesting new kids. He heads for home and hears an old woman calling for help. This is the ticket, exactly what he's been waiting for, except it all goes pear shaped and he severely injures two fake robbers, trashes an antique store and discovers the old woman is really a shape shifter who is part of a plan to recruit him. He doesn't have time to take any of this in before the police show up and his overwhelmed parents enroll him in a horrible school for wayward teens. Oh Avery! Where is your light at the end of the tunnel?

Avery's new school is pretty terrible and he can't really defend himself because he's so much stronger than even the biggest, most cruel bully. When he's forced into a fight he can only allow himself to be beaten up, which leads to more trouble when another teen with powers tries to help him out. Now Avery has to hide more than just his own secret while he tries to sort out who he can trust; the shape shifting and sympathetic woman from the robbery or his fellow teens who are just as confused and angsty as he is.

Dull Boy is laugh out loud funny with plenty of danger, adventure and advanced technology (like a giant robot.) It's also the first in a series (or it has the most unsettled ending of any standalone book I've ever read) which is good news as the book is so much fun. I'll be looking for more works from Ms. Cross.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Boon Dog who writes in to say, "The Sound of Thunder is so bad that I watched it twice and still couldn't remember how it ended. Snooze city." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.