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Margaux with an X
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2004
Nothing is what it seems because there are secrets to keep. Margaux, by far the best-looking girl in her class, smart and witty, knows this "secret stuff" at an early age. She and her father share a dark secret. Her father is good-looking and funny, but is always the con artist and spends his life gambling --- sometimes he wins, sometimes he doesn't. Then there is her mother, locked in her own world of TV shopping, getting her nails done, and sharing her husband's excitement at the racetracks. So while Margaux makes the good grades, dates one boy after another and hangs out with her shallow friends, she is lonelier and angrier than anyone could ever know.

Danny Riley is a walking resale shop. His clothes are too big; he has a plain face and a manner about him that says he just doesn't care what other people think. Danny has his secrets too --- the father who beat him, the aunt who saved him (he hopes) and the devotion to the humane society where he volunteers. Danny is not considered "cool" by his peers and is, in fact, an outsider simply by the way he dresses.

Like Ron Koertge's STONER & SPAZ, Danny and Margaux are a little oil and water. They come together with an unexpected attraction, which at first totally confuses Margaux:

"...Margaux looks for Danny/is afraid he's looking for her/wants to see him/wants to avoid him/wonders why he hasn't sought her out/is afraid he will. Really, what can she be thinking; that uncomely face, the spindle-shanked meagerness of him, the teakettle thinness of his breath. His daunting goodness."

As the relationship develops, Margaux meets Danny's aunt Evie, who suffers from debilitating MS. Margaux also meets the darker Danny --- the Danny who is his father. But out of the chaos in both of their lives, they are pulled together and Margaux does not run from the opportunity to learn from Danny and his wise aunt.

Koertge is a master at exploring teens on the edge. Like Paulsen, Cormier and Brooks, Koertge gives us sharp, insightful glimpses into some darker aspects of adolescents and their lives. Teens will be attracted to these unusual characters and a well-paced story.

--- Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts (stibbetts@maine207west.k12.il.us)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 2, 2004
This book reads like an edgier version of Koertge's other odd-couple book, "Stoner and Spaz." In "Margaux WIth an X," Margaux is this book's version of "Stoner." She's the prettiest girl in her school, blazingly intelligent, and witheringly apathetic. She runs with a shallow crowd and is getting tired of them.

Enter Danny, this book's version of "Spaz." He's a loner who wears thrift-store clothes, lives with his aunt who has MS, and works at a dog shelter. While he's darker and not as charming as the "Spaz" from "Stoner and Spaz," he's sufficiently intriguing and helps Margaux find out who she is, apart from her ditzy friends. Danny's sick aunt also gives Margaux some of the tools she needs to confront her irresponsible parents, who are little more than a career gambler and a TV addict.

Margaux, in turn, doesn't desert Danny when he shows her a sinister side of himself. These two are far from being a match made in heaven; they may not last a year. But they're getting what good can come out of their friendship while it lasts.

If you liked Koertge's other books, you'll like this one. It features his trademark sharp, intelligent humor and dialogue that rings truer than most YA books out there.

"Smart" teens, "weird" teens, and adults who enjoy YA literature will love this book. I found it beautiful, intelligent, disturbing, and uplifting. But "Stoner and Spaz" is still my favorite!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2005
This book, despite an serious and well-developed plot, had me cracking up. The sarcastic and intelligent humor it is written in, most notably Margaux's voice, is hilarious. Margaux experiences changes and deep hurt, while running a higly entertaining and sophisticated track of commentaries on everything. I really loved this book, and literally read it in one sitting. The entire book is well thought out, and leaves you with the good feeling of having read a witty, self-contained book. I really recommend this to any young adult readers out there.
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If Stoner & Spaz pushed the envelope, then MARGAUX WITH AN X set the envelope on fire and tossed it from a window. This engaging and fun read by Ron Koertge presents two more likeable, quirky, and sardonic main characters who don't fit in and stop trying to.

But it's not an edgy or controversial book full of salacious and scandalous details about Margaux and Danny, two teen misfits. This book is impossible to put down due to Koertge's omniscient narrator, who guides the reader through the lives of two teens who are scarred by their parents. The narrator's voice is snarky and intelligent (Dictionary, anyone? What DOES persiflage mean, anyway?) and it's blended with Margaux's and Danny's, lending the novel a feeling of wholeness. Koertge clearly knows what it's like to be an outsider. In less capable hands, the blending of voices used in MARGAUX WITH AN X would fall flat and appear amateurish. But Koertge succeeds masterfully; the impression left on the reader is that Danny and Margaux are two parts of the same puzzle, and the narrator knows how to fit them in place because he's worked the puzzle before.

The main characters do not "complete" each other. There is no romantic sizzle. Instead, theirs is a relationship necessary to start their lives over again, without the shallow expectations of their peers in their SoCal high school environment. Danny's friendly but his awkwardness or disinterest in Margaux sexually makes him appealing to her. Although he may seem contrived to some oversexed readers, it is an unstated fact that his father's abusive nurturing has affected him in a variety of ways, both good and bad. Margaux's good looks draw men to her, a fact she resents due to her own sad past. By keeping these two on a platonic but loving level, Koertge lays the groundwork for a believable, happy ending to a compelling novel.

Highly recommended. Five stars and Gold Award.

Reviewed by: Mark Frye, author and reviewer
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VINE VOICEon December 25, 2006
Margaux is pretty, popular and deeply unhappy. The reader doesn't know why until she starts hanging out with not handsome, not rich and not popular Andy, who is happy. Andy works at the local animal shelter, and for fun, first alone and then with Margaux, looks to see what kind of homes the adopted animals have. Andy and Margaux are both academically adept and with each other can be honest, real friends.

It's not as good as the author's _Shakespeare Bats Cleanup,_ and its similarities to _Stoner and Spaz_ are there, but I liked it more than _Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright._
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An unlikely, but ultimately rewarding friendship develops between popular, smarmy Margaux and uber-geek Danny, who each have some dark secrets. Margaux is beautiful, stylish--the boys want to have her and the girls want to be her. She is even smart, but she hides it from everyone. Danny, on the other end of the social spectrum, intrigues Margaux. He's smart, polite, and doesn't treat her like a trophy.

Not much actually happens as far as plot, but the character development is excellent.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2006
Margaux with an x is about a young lady who seems to have it all. Beauty,Popularity and can do about anything without getting into trouble at home. Yet she is not happy she holds a dark secret that happened to her when she was young.She is tired of every boy drooling over her and wanting to date her and most having no content to them. She has a gambler as a father and a mother who just watches television all day. Her life takes a different turn when she meets Danny. He is the total opposite of all the guys she has dated. He is a year behind her in high school he is thin and is not shapely, yet they both start a bond with each other. The book was interesting but after awhile I got tired and could not keep up with the constant bantering and sarcasm of the main characters.
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