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Project Sweet Life Hardcover – February 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Fifteen-year-old Dave and his buddies Victor and Curtis are shocked when their fathers demand they get summer jobs. As the boys glumly contemplate actual work, they decide to deceive their families, avoid employment, and live the sweet life for one last summer. Still, they need to figure out a way to make money, which they can pass off to their parents as hard-earned wages. In a series of ill-fated schemes that range from bank stakeouts to scuba diving, the boys weave a complicated and uncomfortable web of lies and rack up a large debt. At last, they try a desperate plan to locate stolen gold that plunges them into the China Tunnels, a remnant of a black time in the history of Tacoma, Washington. Hartinger’s comedy of errors is improbable but entertaining. The characters ring true, and teens will appreciate that the trio puts more effort into evading work than they would have expended at a real job. An amusing story with great teen appeal. Grades 6-9. --Lynn Rutan


“An amusing story with great teen appeal.” (ALA Booklist)

“A hilarious story filled with mishaps, close calls, and outrageous adventures. It will keep readers laughing and engaged.” (School Library Journal)

“An irresistable setting with humorous episodes tinged with mild danger, and a light–hearted mystery.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

“The boys’ friendship, lightly and expertly depicted, drives the book, while their smartly plotted moneymaking schemes are creative, highjinks–filled, and hilariously almost effective.” (The Horn Book)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060824115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060824112
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,670,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am Brent Hartinger, and I live to write.

For the last twenty years, I have made my living writing just about everything that involves words.

My most famous book is probably my 2003 gay teen novel, GEOGRAPHY CLUB, which was adapted into a feature film starring Scott Bakula, Marin Hinkle, Ana Gasteyer, Justin Deeley, and Nikki Blonsky. It was released in selected theaters and on VOD on November 15, 2013.

Geography Club is now the first book in The Russel Middlebrook Series. In order, the stories in the series are:

* GEOGRAPHY CLUB (book #1)

I'm currently launching an entirely *new* series featuring Russel Middlebrook and his friends, called Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years. These books are set six years later (in the present), with the characters in their early twenties. They're also "adult" books, not YA, so they're longer and a bit edgier (but hopefully just as fun and funny). They're also "stand-alone," meaning you don't need to read the earlier books.

These books are:

* THE THING I DIDN'T KNOW I DIDN'T KNOW (book #1, December 15, 2014)

For the record, I try hard to write books that people *like* to read. The most frequent comment I get from readers is that my books are "page-turners," which makes me very happy, because that is exactly what I want them to be. If I had to describe my own books, I would say, "Strong central concept, strong plot, strong character and voice, and usually lots of humor." (I may not always *succeed* in creating these things, but they're what I always strive for.)

My biggest complaint with books I hate is that they don't get to the point (or, worse, they don't have a point!). I get frustrated that so many books have a cliche or overdone central concept, or that they're all atmosphere and world-building (or "beautiful language," in the case of some literary novels) with no real story.

Basically, I see myself as a storyteller. I think the important thing for a writer is to get out of the way and just tell the damn story.

Sure enough, my second great love is screenwriting and playwriting. I've won lots of screenwriting awards and have several movie projects in very active development.

Meanwhile, my plays have been performed at dozens of theaters. And I adapted GEOGRAPHY CLUB into a stage play, which has now been produced all over the country.

In addition, I'm the co-host of a bi-weekly podcast, Media Carnivores, which covers media-related news and opinion (and also honest writing advice and updates on my career).

I sometimes teach writing, in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College and elsewhere.

And I also do a fair bit of charity work, including a brand new enterprise, The Real Story Safe Sex Project, using entertainment and pop culture to help gay teens and twentysomethings fight HIV/AIDS.

I live in Seattle, Washington, with my partner since 1992, Michael Jensen. Together with our friend Sarah Warn, we co-founded a very successful entertainment website called that was eventually acquired by MTV/Logo (but we don't work there anymore).

I answer all emails (eventually), so if you have a question or a comment, if you want to buy a signed edition of one of my books (free shipping in the US!), or if you're interested in having me speak to your school or group, contact me through my website: (There's information about my fees, etc., here.)

My "Official" Biography


His other books include THE LAST CHANCE TEXACO (2004); GRAND & HUMBLE (2006); PROJECT SWEET LIFE (2008); and SHADOW WALKERS (2011).

A feature film version of his first novel, GEOGRAPHY CLUB, was released in November 2013, co-starring Scott Bakula, Ana Gasteyer, and Nikki Blonsky.

Hartinger is also the author of many award-winning screenplays and plays, including a stage adaptation of GEOGRAPHY CLUB, which has received regional productions in Salt Lake City, Edmonton, and many other places. Three more of his screen projects have been optioned for film and are in various stages of development, including his screenplay of his award-winning play THE STARFISH SCREAM.

Mr. Hartinger's many writing honors include being named the winner of the Lambda Literary Award; a GLAAD Media Award; the Screenwriting in the Sun Award; the L.A. Comedy Festival Screenwriting Award; the Scandiuzzi Children's Book Award; and a Book Sense Pick (four times).

Hartinger is the co-host of the Media Carnivores podcast, a sometime-member of the faculty at Vermont College in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and the co-founder of the entertainment website, which was sold to MTV/Viacom in 2006. In 1990, he co-founded one of the country's first gay youth support groups, in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington. He also founded and currently runs the Real Story Safe Sex Project.

He lives in Seattle with his partner, writer Michael Jensen.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
5 star
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2 star
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See all 9 customer reviews
I have read other books by Hartinger, who has tackled some serious topics very well.
Maggie Knapp
When I first saw this book several months ago, I hesitated to read it (even though it sounded funny).
Books and Literature for Teens (BLT)
If anything I'm sure younger readers will love it more than its intended audience; young adults.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Books and Literature for Teens (BLT) on July 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Summer jobs for fifteen year olds are optional, but for Dave, Curtis, and Victor, their dads have different ideas. They would do anything just to have one more free summer before they go to work....for the rest of their lives. Soon it's a race against time to collect $7,000 dollars before the end of the summer-and without lifting a finger.
With a daring plan, Mr. Moneybags, and some very bad luck, Dave, Curtis, and Victor embark on their last free summer and a quest find the money, even if it means lying to their parents and chasing bank robbers. Project Sweet Life is an exciting humorous story of friendship, adventure, and growing up.


When I first saw this book several months ago, I hesitated to read it (even though it sounded funny). Three guys ditching summers jobs and faking it just to spend one last "free" summer? What a bunch of slackers, right? As it turns out, Project Sweet Life is much more than that. Not only was it just hilarious, it was full of adventure which felt like reading a modern-day teenage Indiana-Jones episode. The three guys tried all kinds of ways to make $7,000 dollars fast (and legally); from a no-junk garage sale, to trying to catch some bank robbers, to hidden treasure. Dave, Curtis, and Victor could have succeeded in the first try, but they kept running into all sorts of bizarre roadblocks.
It was fun to read a book from a guy's point of view, Dave (the narrator) has a very clear, distinct voice and the book was just written so well. Chances are, you'll never forget this entertaining trio and their whacky plans. Project Sweet Life is a super fun book for anyone and has become one of my favorites!

About the Author
Brent Hartinger has been writing novels, plays, and screenplays for many years.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By tvandbookaddict on April 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Project Sweet life is the story about fifteen year old Dave and his two best friends, Curtis and Victor. The day right before their summer vacation begins, their dads spring this crazy order on them, they have to get a job. They absolutely cannot have this! I mean they're only fifteen! They shouldn't have to work, besides they had everything planned out for the summer. Since they don't want this job thing ruining their vacation they decide to come up with the cash they would have made working all summer ($7,000 bucks to be exact) in a quick way so that they have the rest of the summer to do what they had been planning. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned.

I really liked this book. The story was very ...sweet. hehe It's basically about these three good friends going through an adventure. I absolutely love those kinds of stories and thankfully this book was just as good. It made me laugh out loud at times, gosh the things these kids think up! Hilarious. The three fellas were unfortunate enough to end up having bad luck in a bunch of the schemes they tried to make themselves rich quick. It was pretty fun to read about. I could easily picture this becoming a movie and trust me, I'd be one of the first to see it. :)
I loved the whole friendship subject, absolutely loved it! It's really great how each of the boys had their own funky personality but they were good together anyway, it's really cute. :)

A bunch of the schemes really seems like they would work and I was seriously thinking, "Whoa they make those seven grand that fast?" It really surprises you which is nice. Did I mention it was very funny? Gosh I just cracked up so much with the old lady part, you have no idea how much I laughed. Too funny.
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By Krista on June 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Fifteen-year-old Dave and his best friends Curtis and Victor are excited to spend their summer relaxing. However, then their dads throw them a curveball-all three of them must get a summer job. Dave, Curtis, and Victor believe a mandatory summer job is outrageous for fifteen-year-olds. A mandatory summer job should be reserved for sixteen-year-olds and up.

However, then the trio thinks of an idea. The three of them will have fake summer jobs. Under Project Sweet Life, they will earn $7,000, which is what they would have made if they have gotten summer jobs. However, earning $7,000 is not quite as easy as it sounds...

Project Sweet Life was an entertaining read. Every time Dave and his friends were close to earning the $7,000, something unfortunate would happen, and they were back to square one. The first two times this happened, I was frustrated, but after that, reading about their failed attempts became entertaining. In fact, each one was more entertaining than the last! Without spoiling it, the end included a failed attempt that completely fit the rest of the novel too. Another thing I enjoyed was how Hartinger cleverly weaved in the history of Tacoma, Washington, which is where the boys live. I found the history to be fascinating.

I had one problem with Project Sweet Life. I think Hartinger created the idea of fake summer jobs to be over-the-job, just like the rest of the schemes Dave and his friends get into. However, that does not mean that it did not bother me. Dave, Curtis, and Victor are fifteen. What 15-year-olds go through the trouble of having fake jobs?! I found the fake jobs to be a stupid and childish idea. I can't even refer to the trio as `teens' because it just does not feel right. I can only call them boys.
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