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King of the Screwups Hardcover – April 6, 2009

52 customer reviews

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Never Always Sometimes
Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they've actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love. See Kindle book

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Like her previous novels, including the Printz Honor Book Fat Kid Rules the World (2003), Going’s latest is a surprising, memorable story shaped from unlikely character bonds. High-school senior Liam is a talented, straight athlete who is as gorgeous as his mother, a former supermodel, and has inherited her interest in clothes: “I love fashion. And girls.” A mediocre student, he constantly disappoints his dad, an angry, sometimes verbally abusive executive who kicks Liam out of the house after one too many perceived transgressions. Against his homophobic dad’s wishes, Liam moves in with his gay, cross-dressing, trailer-dwelling uncle, Aunt Pete. Determined to meet his father’s expectations, Liam joins the AV club at his new school and actively tries to fight his natural status as “Mr. Popularity”; but once again, everything goes awry. Liam’s parents occasionally feel more like caricatures than fully developed characters, but Liam and Aunt Pete are true originals, and Going balances her strong messages of self-discovery and acceptance with compassionate, bittersweet scenes that highlight the soul-sapping futility of trying to please unappeasable adults. Grades 7-12. --Gillian Engberg


"Going's latest (after The Garden of Eve) is full of comic moments featuring "Aunt" Pete's glam-rock band buddies and Liam's relentless blunders, as well as his uncommon fashion expertise ("You're like a fashion Einstein," gushes one of Pete's friends). Readers—screwups or not—will empathize as Liam, utterly likable despite his faults, learns to be himself."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

Liam is a multifaceted and resilient character who ultimately learns how to be comfortable in his own skin with the help of his new, makeshift family. Going’s knack for defying stereotypes and creating memorable characters will not disappoint fans of Fat Kid Rules the World (Putnam, 2003) and Saint Iggy (Harcourt, 2006).--School Library Journal, starred review
"Going’s latest flows easily with smooth, realistic dialogue and reads like a coming-out story for straight guys. This innovative, out-of-the-box approach juxtaposes stereotypes, received values, parental roles and masculinity in a jarringly fun and approachable manner that marks a triumphant left-turn for the genre. Cloaked as a story of tough love, this is actually a psychological exploration of the impact of parental expectations versus the dreams of their children."--Kirkus
"Liam and Aunt Pete are true originals, and Going balances her strong messages of selfdiscovery and acceptance with compassionate, bittersweet scenes that highlight the soul-sapping futility of trying to please unappeasable adults."--Booklist
"Going creates an engaging cast of characters . . . Liam is a complex character whose development into a sympathetic, real person is compelling."--VOYA (4Q4P)
“After her darker, more enigmatic turn with Saint Iggy . . . Going delivers an involving coming-of-age character study likely to please fans of her Fat Kid Rules the World.”--The Bulletin
"Going's writing is smooth and simple."--New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 690L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: Kentucky Bluegrass Awards 2011 Grades 9-12
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152062580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152062583
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,728,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

K.L. Going is the award-winning author of books for children and teens. Her first novel, Fat Kid Rules the World was a Michael Printz Honor Book, listed with YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults and their Best Books for the Past Decade. Her books have been Booksense picks, Scholastic Book Club choices, Junior Library Guild selections, NY Public Library Best Books for the Teenage, and winners of state book awards. Her work has been published in Korea, Italy, Japan, Germany, and the UK, and Fat Kid Rules the World is now a major motion picture!

K.L. began her career working at one of the oldest literary agencies in New York City. She used this inner knowledge of publishing to write Writing and Selling the Young Adult Novel -- a how-to book for aspiring writers, published by Writer's Digest. She has also written short stories for several anthologies and currently has multiple picture books under contract. She lives in Glen Spey, NY where she both writes and runs a business critiquing manuscripts. She's also an adoring mom.

To visit KL on-line go to,, or find her on Twitter!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J.L. McHale VINE VOICE on May 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Liam Geller is the son of a successful former model and an uptight CEO. The pressure placed on him to succeed from a very young age, combined with the layers of emotional abuse suffered from the words of his father, results in causing him to believe that he's not good at anything except "screwing up". When a final mistake at home causes his father to kick him out he goes to live with his "Aunt" Pete, a man who's been estranged from his family for years due to his refusal to conform to what had been expected of him.

The story goes on to share Liam's struggle of coming to terms with the fact that his parents aren't perfect and he isn't broken, as they've lead him to believe he is. The humor in this story is all a mask of much deeper issues. It's a rewarding read because of the beautifully constructed main characters. But, there will also be points when you'd like to thorw it across the room because of the anger that the other, minor characters, instill in you as a reader.

K.L. Going does a fantastic job of making you feel like you could be a watcher in this smalltown of Pineville, experiencing the ups and downs of Liam and his uncle as a next-door neighbor really would.

The one thing I would state against this book (and the reason I didn't give it the full 5 stars) is that it's not for middle-schoolers. Sure, there may be some kids mature enough to handle the subject matter at that age, but I feel that the majority of 12-year-olds out there would not be able to grasp the dynamics of this story.

These are hard subjects to handle, even for a high-schooler. But I would definitely advise that the sexual innuendo, language and subtle detailing of emotional abuse would be much better received by a slightly older audience than what the cover of the book recommends.

Other than that, A+.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on January 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
You can't please everybody. I knew that before reading KING OF THE SCREWUPS by K.L Going. Ms.Going, however, is going to please a lot of people with her newest book. I have read her other books and she just has a way of creating an engaging ensemble of characters in each book you read.

I like Liam Geller, the protagonist in this story. He is Mr Popular. You know the type - very good looking, knows how to dress, has his way with the ladies, excels at sports. He is just an average student, though, and this disappoints his father to no end. His father is a CEO of this prestigious company and a member of Mensa, so you can imagine what an embarrassment it must be for him that his son does not take after him. Liam actually takes after his mom, a former runway model. He has a great eye for fashion and this does not sit well with dear old dad. His father absolutely believes that intelligence and discipline is what will get him far in life. Popularity and likeableness in high school will not help in the real world. I beg to differ on that point....

I do not like Allan Geller. Personally, I think he is a horse's ass. The pressure he puts on his son is ridiculous. Working in the school system, I see a lot of fathers like that. Their kids are generally good kids, have potential, but just feel like losers because they are buried under such criticism and feel no love.

This definitely can be considered a coming-of-age story. Liam, throughout this book, discovers who he is and how to make it work. Going seamlessly combines much needed comic moments with some heartbreaking ones.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mike VINE VOICE on June 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
More like 3 1/2 if that was an option.

The plot of "King of the Screwups" starts off by borrowing a page from the Salinger playbook - except this time Liam is kicked out of his house by his disappointed software developer father who is disappointed that he wants to be a model (like his mother) and moves in with his uncle "Aunt Pete" who lives in a trailer park. Liam screws up constantly, whether it's at the beginning of the book when his parents walk in on him having sex in their house, when he writes the word "the" in a class taught by his uncle's boyfriend. Then Liam has an epiphany.

Unlike every other book where the shy kid moves to a new school to become popular, Liam tries to be more of a nerd (which is a welcome twist for the genre), like his software developer father. Comic mishaps ensue including getting arrested by an altogether familiar police officer after attempting to spice up a party. Yadda yadda, be yourself. That kind of thing. Then there is a climactic and extremely predictable showdown in the principal's office between Liam's uncle and his father.

It's not as bad as it sounds though even if it isn't particularly original. Most of the characters are flat. Liam's father has about as much depth as a sheet of tracing paper and serves as a vaudevillesque antagonist who yells at his saintly wife and tries to sign up Liam for the military. Aunt Pete's friends often serve as plot devices. Yet, Liam is a surprisingly likable protagonist and Aunt Pete is one of the better written gay characters in YA lit.

Some of the dialogue is snarky and very funny, too. After the aforementioned police incident, Liam is confronted and says he needed to relax, then Aunt Pete responds, "from all the sleeping and watching television you do?
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