When a large percentage of the hot, eligible male population makes a mass exodus from the financially struggling Julius P. Heil High School, the girls left behind quickly notice the deficit and the boys left behind quickly begin to realize that their stock and desirability has suddenly gone up. Meanwhile, the boys aren’t the only thing leaving the high school in a hurry. Because of massive budget cuts, many extracurriculars are being pruned from the class schedules… including Kelly Robbin’s favorite, band. A flautist whose love for music took root during the high school’s once popular elementary school band program, she’s extremely saddened by the high school’s decision to cut music. But when her friend and fellow musician Hunter suggests they revive the program themselves and “peer teach” the musically-inclined third-graders , she jumps at the chance to share her love and knowledge of music with the kids. As they work together, Kelly begins to see a different side of Hunter, finally admitting to herself that, maybe yes, she’s crushing on the cute slacker with the long hair. But when the popular Spandexers crowd also begins to notice Hunter, Kelly wonders if she even has a chance.
Caught between her best friends – the beautiful, vivacious Aviva and the ambitious, scholarly Darcy, Kelly Robbins is the balancing force between the three of them. The normalcy, the glue, the one that averages both of her radcially different best friends out.
Average, that’s Kelly Robbins to a ‘T.’ The cute, sweet, responsible, girl-next-door, she’s known and liked throughout her high school for her perpetual friendliness and kindness. But how does the song go? “Nice girls finish last?” And this is definitely true for Kelly who’s never been much sought after by the male contingent of Julius P. Heil and who sometimes finds herself being referred to as “dude.” Now with the current male to female ratio at school, she fears that the odds of her luck changing during her junior year aren’t good.
“I’ve never had any summer lovin’. And I’ve never had any school year lovin’, either. I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’ve never hooked up with a guy. And this morning, on my Internet browser, an article popped up about women marrying themselves.
Even my wireless connection knows I’m alone.” (Kelly, 7%)
I love Kelly’s voice. She’s normal and relateable. While she comes across as an responsible teen, she feels like a teenager teenager – not too grown up and perhaps a tad overly concerned with the daily dramas that infiltrate the microcosm of her school’s social scene. She’s a pretty grounded individual though, and she often displays her ironic sense of humor as she narrates, often cleverly describing things and setting the stage in such a way that depicts the scene perfectly while it also induces fits of giggling. In my opinion, the boys of Julius P. Heil don’t know what they’re missing, and one boy in particular…
“…[T]oday we’re shopping for me. I, Hunter Fahrenbach, am buying an agenda….
I take the planner and flip through the pages. There’s already stuff written on a bunch of days. Christmas, Hanukkah, daylight savings time, Canadian Thanksgiving…Ugh. I can’t handle all these commitments.” (Hunter, 64%)
Meet Hunter. Slacker Extraordinaire. Marked by a distinct lack of ambition and a healthy dose of apathy about everything, the only thing that Hunter is truly passionate about is his bed… and sleeping away his 90-days of summer. When Hunter is not two hours into his REM cycle drooling on his pillow, he’s hanging around with his similarly loser-like friends at the gas station, setting things on fire, or lazing around on the lake. When we meet Hunter for the first time, he is on the very last day of his summer job hunt – and I use the term loosely – on the very last day of summer.
The funny thing is, Hunter is actually very smart. He gets good grades in his classes without much effort, though sometimes as expected, that studying strategy does fail him. He also plays guitar… in a band… that doesn’t actually exist (Why is he in a fake band? Because it takes too much effort to be in an actual band, writing songs, practicing, booking gigs, etc.) But despite his obvious aversion to anything resembling work or commitment, Hunter is endearing. While he might not be the most driven individual, he’s just a really good guy, and when the situation calls for it, he step up, take initiative and be responsible. He’s also hilarious. If I thought Kelly was a funny narrator, Hunter is even funnier. His frank introspection of himself and his honest observations of everyone around him are funny and dead accurate. Though he often tells it like it is when it comes to his friends, it’s clear that Hunter does truly care about his best buds.
Speaking of his posse, Hunter is the keystone to his small social circle as well. Eugene, the unscrupulous, opportunistic capitalist, is well on his way to forming his own criminal organization, and Derek is the irresponsible pyromaniac who never leaves home without his lighter. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call Eugene “responsible,” Eugene is intimately acquainted with how the world works – manipulations and “playing the game” – and despite his sometimes skewed and jaded view of the world, he does provide Hunter with some wise insight from time to time. Because of his unique perspective and character, Eugene (bless his devious little heart) became a favorite of mine. Similarly Derek, despite his tendency to ignite things, whether it be on purpose or otherwise, wormed his way into my heart too. His perpetual optimism and overall obliviousness to fire safety made him at once terrifying, yet kind of adorable. You’ll have to trust me on that one… or, better yet, read the book.
While the premise of The Boy Recession is an interesting and unique one and while it is executed rather plausibly, the plot is nothing particularly groundbreaking in how it develops and resolves. But predictable though it might be, it’s still fun watching the characters, especially these characters, journey toward the conclusion. The romance is also a little on the average side, but as I’ve hinted at earlier, this book shines in character development, snappy inner monologues and hilarious, witty dialogue, all of which made it an extremely fun read for me.
Overall, if you’re looking for a funny, lighthearted book that will induce spontaneous bursts of giggling from start to finish, then pick up The Boy Recession.
Warning: If you share a bed/bedroom/thin bedroom wall with someone else you may not want to read this into the wee hours of the morning, because you WILL wake them up… multiple times (re: uncontrollable bouts of laughter).