- Spurt by Chris Miles
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-7972-1 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-7974-5 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 7-10
While all of his friends have at least sprouted pubic hair and pimples and his classmate Oliver could model for protein shakes, fourteen-year-old Jack Sprigley has yet to see any signs of puberty. He decides his only option to save face is to pretend that everything is just peachy “downstairs.” His shame is so evident that his friend Philo crafts a homemade merkin out of his own pubic hair to help Jack avoid Oliver’s locker room taunts and gives him prescription testosterone cream that accidentally turns his gran into a deep-voiced bully. Jack’s quest to seem manlier than he is leads to more and more embarrassment and lies, especially when a reality show that he starred in a couple years ago proposes a reunion episode. Things spin manically out of control when the producer pits Jack against Oliver in an absurd competition involving self-designed hot-air balloons. There is no subtle wordplay or clever innuendo here; nothing is left to the imagination, and the humor depends entirely on readers finding the funny in embarrassment and ridiculously exaggerated situations, mostly focused on below the belt male concerns. The characters and their antics follow cartoon logic with lessons about loyalty to friends and being true to oneself superimposed on the absurd plot; think Phineas and Ferb meets Arthur by way of South Park. Still, there are plenty of audience for this humor, and given the dearth of books about male puberty, between Jack and Oliver this one fully acknowledges, via gross hyperbole, the angst experienced by both late bloomers and overachievers.