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Mr. 60% Hardcover – August 22, 2017
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Matt is a second-semester high school senior who has made a career out of doing barely enough work to keep from failing out of school, earning him the titular nickname. But he's better known by his classmates as the go-to contact for weed and pills; he conceals "party bags" around the building and sells them to schoolmates. When a new school board regulation requires every senior to join at least one extracurricular activity, sadistic Vice Principal Gill thinks he's finally bested Matt. Then, through Helping Hands, a community service club, Matt meets Amanda, a social pariah who is collecting children's book donations for a local hospital. Through Matt's slowly developing relationship with sensitive Amanda, readers experience more of his personal life and learn why he sells and eventually begins smuggling drugs. The story is repetitive at times, and the characters frequently lapse into stereotypes. Coarse language, drug use, and frank depictions of terminal illness make this title better suited for mature readers. The chapters are brief, and the text is simple and direct. VERDICT Despite some shortcomings, this is a good choice for reluctant and struggling high school readers.—Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA
"Emotionally generous and poignantly authentic, Mr. 60% is a much needed reminder of the battles raging in the private lives of strangers. You will be so invested in Matt Nolan, you'll try to turn the pages even after his story ends. Who knew a high school drug dealer could be so universally relatable?" -Katrina Mathewson, writer on Fox Network hit Pitch, former staff writer on Comedy Central's @midnight
"Mr. 60% is a powerful, important story [teen novel] about what heroism looks like in the real world where so many people live." -Terry Trueman, author of the Printz Honor book Stuck in Neutral
"Clete Smith has that rare wonderful gift, the ability to perfectly craft a story to compel the reader to eagerly enjoy one more page, and another, and the next chapter, until the story's perfect end...YA at its very best." -Trent Reedy, author of Divided We Fall
Top customer reviews
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First, let me say I love this title. It’s unique, memorable and it has an important meaning to the story, which always makes me happy. A title that has a clear connection to the story is one of my favorite things ever!
When I started reading Mr. 60%, I was immediately hit by a sense of familiarity. I’ve recently finished another YA book that had a teen drug dealer and an overweight girl as the two main characters, Trust by Kylie Scott. Soon enough, though, I learned these two books were worlds apart. They were both great, but the tone and narrative were completely different.
While Trust is a clear romance-focused book, Mr. 60%’s message is more about dealing with loss, finding hope and surrounding yourself with good people. And, dude, this book is filled with genuinely good people as characters.
The school counselor, Mr. Marsh, for example, is a good, good man. I wish there were more people like him in the world. More people like him working at schools all over the world. The way he didn’t push, but was still there for Matt was brilliant. He’s a clear example of a person who isn’t willing to give up because he wants to make a difference, and he knows how to make a difference. People often get themselves lost in their need to help because they don’t know what to do, but I believe there are many folks out there that are level-headed like Mr. Marsh, and those are the people who should be around teenagers and helping them find their way. Mr. Marsh was a side character, but the amount of love and appreciation I have for him isn’t small at all.
I think I only loved him less than I did Amanda, because there’s no competing with that girl. Amanda will be a phenomenal nurse one day—and yes, I’m talking about her as if she was a real person. Deal with it. I absolutely loved how good and pure and genuine and pretty much perfect she was. She didn’t have anything to gain by helping. There were no promises. No guarantees. She simply did because she wanted to and because she saw someone in need of help. I loved how easy it was for her to fit into Matt and Jack’s life, as if she belonged. And she did. It was all so cohesive and easy and warm. THE FEELS!
Now to Matt and Uncle Jack. Man. The tears. The freaking tears. I have to say that one of my favorite things about this was how these two characters were flawed, but they still charmed me and made me feel so much for them. Uncle Jack wasn’t this perfect father figure, but he was still a father to Matt. A good father and a good uncle and a good man, even though it was implied he’d done some shady things in the past. Same for Matt. He was a freaking drug dealer, so he was far from a conventional good guy. He broke the law left and right, and I’m not even sure if it was all because of his uncle’s situation or if he would’ve gone down that path anyway. But Matt was a lost kid who’d gotten the short end of the stick when it came to life in general, and it seemed like Mr. 60% only needed a little bit of light (Amanda) and guidance (Mr. Marsh) to find a way out of that hole.
While Matt did questionable things, I still wanted to hug him. I wanted to be Amanda’s mom and hug him real tight because he gave me something I need when I read books. He gave me the kind of priceless dynamic I want to see in every story when it came to his relationship with his uncle. I want to see characters who care about each other even when they’re not throwing I love yous around. People who’ll care for each other and be there when needed. People who’ll sacrifice and hurt and make me cry. I’m not a crier, but this book reduced me to a crying mess. I should’ve known better to read the final chapters on the bus.
So while this was a quiet read with no romance (yeah, sorry, but Amanda and Matt are perfectly platonic—yeah, I said perfect, and I’m the biggest romance fan ever), it gave me more than I needed. More than I expected when I started reading. It gave me hope that somewhere out there “Amandas” and “Mr. Marshs” will find their “Matts” and help them out of the dark.
Meeting Amanda at his after school punishment club duty didn't really come off as genuine and Matt never really sat down and became friends with her on any level except for taking care of his sick uncle. This made the book overly heavy and depressing when we all know death is a part of life and I would have liked a bit more optimism.
I did enjoy the ending because it seemed like Matt finally decided to claim his life and start living which was the whole point of the book so it did wrap up nicely.
My main problem with this book is the characters. I had such a difficult time connecting with the characters. I like Amanda a lot in the beginning. She’s an outcast, but always so happy and bubbly. She doesn’t let anything or anyone stop her from doing what she loves. Even when she’s rejected and hurt, she still finds a way to keep going. I admired that about her. BUT halfway through… there was just something off about her. I can’t pinpoint what it was, but she came off maybe way too optimistic? I did like Matt but I just didn’t care all that much about him. I don’t know why… I mean I feel like I should. His life is such a big mess. Everyone thinks he won’t succeed. He has to resort to selling drugs just to keep up with bills and medical expenses. Then there’s his uncle, Jack, whose condition is never going to get better and you know the worst is coming at any moment. It’s completely depressing and I’m such an emotional person I should have felt “IT.” I can watch a show halfway through or know nothing about it, but when I see a heartbreaking situation where the characters are crying… I almost always will tear up. This type of stories hit me hard… BUT UGHHHHH this one didn’t.
The plot had potential.. a lot of it, but it just kind of felt flat for me. Cancer is a very sensitive issue. Like I said, I was hoping for that FEELS and barely got any. The writing was just okay for me. I did like that the book was easy to read. I breezed through it in less than 24 hours and couldn’t put it down. That’s a good thing… I think. Or maybe, I just kept going because I was looking for something more. It also felt like the storytelling was missing something. I don’t know… I’m honestly kicking myself right now because I can’t wrap my mind around why this book did not work for me. Oh and that ending…don’t even get me started. It felt rushed and unfinished. I thought there was an epilogue or something, but nope. It was seriously so frustrating.
As disappointing as this was for me, there were a few things I did really like – the relationships, the humor, and the title. I like Matt’s relationship with Jack and I thought it was really admirable what Matt was doing for his uncle. They bickered a lot, but you can tell how deeply they cared about each other. I also really like that Matt and Amanda stayed friends throughout the story. I’m usually all for romance and thought Matt and Amanda are just great for each other, but it’s nice to see boy-girl platonic relationships cause YES boys and girls do not always have to have romantic feelings for each other. Boys and girls can be best friends and just that. I also really enjoyed the sense of humor in this book. The bantering between Matt, Jack and Amanda was refreshing, amusing and endearing. That was definitely a big plus! And the title… I just really love the title. Matt is called “Mr. 60%” for a reason… it’s quite sad really, but I thought it was pretty clever.
Overall, I don’t dislike this book, but it definitely did not work for me. I think that Mr. 60% by Clete Barrett Smith is a decent story with the potential to be amazing and is probably that to other readers, but it just felt dull for me. Maybe I just went into this expecting to feel something and when I didn’t, I ended up being so disappointed that I couldn’t relate to the characters and story anymore. At least I didn’t DNF it and some parts were entertaining.
I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher, Crown Books for Young Readers, via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
To read more of my reviews, visit sincerelykarenjo [dot] wordpress [dot] com