From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up–In this collection of previously published and new stories, Boyle delivers compelling tales of humor, compassion, and intrigue. In the title story, a washed-up talent agent finds his second wind representing Zoltan Mindszenty, aka La Mosca Humana, a frail, reticent daredevil seeking notoriety in the U.S. In The Champ, Angelo D. must defend his 37-year reign as champion eater. Newcomer Kid Gullet challenges his title, all the while hilariously dissing Angelo with his Mohammed Ali-like banter. Beat is a lyrical satire in which a young man travels to Long Island at Christmastime, 1957, to meet his idol, Jack Kerouac, in what becomes a true-to-form hedonistic weekend with the writer and his Beat colleagues. The Love of My Life is a heartbreaking story of two young lovers, who find their world shattered when China becomes pregnant, and the pair tries to deliver the baby themselves in a motel room. Other notable stories are Achates McNeil, in which a dead-beat novelist father visits his son's college as a guest speaker, and 56-0, a linebacker's desperate-but-witty attempt to find a life lesson in continuous defeat. Boyle's stories are short but often challenging in their nuances, and therefore are not recommended for reluctant readers. The collection will find its best audience among thoughtful older teens.–Jane Cronkhite, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH
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Gr. 10-12. Like Joyce Carol Oates' Small Avalanches
2002), this collection brings together stories previously published for adults. Boyle's fiction is well-suited to older teens able to handle the sometimes raw, graphic subject matter. Many of the characters are young adults, and Boyle perfectly echoes an adolescent voice in unsparing, often hilarious observations (one college student notes that his middle-aged father's eyes appear to have been "sucked down . . . volcanoes of wrinkles"). There are absurd, satiric twists of reality (a hit man's permanent hood keeps him in constant shadow) and some shocking scenarios. In "Love of My Life," for example, two teens abandon their newborn baby in a dumpster. Teens may already know "Greasy Lake," a widely anthologized story of pranks and excess gone wrong, and students who have read George Orwell's essays will find contemporary parallels in "Almost Shooting an Elephant." Whether the characters are confronting sex with the wrong person, the desire for fame, or an egotistical parent, their uncomfortable, sharply authentic stories will speak directly to many readers. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved