Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Antsy Does Time

Because I loved Unwind (see my review here) and liked The Schwa Was Here, I picked up the newest YA novel by Neal Shusterman when I was at the library. It's narrated by Anthony (Antsy) Bonano, the same character who narrated The Schwa Was Here, and it's just as much fun.

The chapter titles alone are worth checking out--one of them is "Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me, Think I'll Eat Some Worms," in which Antsy learns more about the family of his friends the Umlauts and realizes "that the Umlaut can of worms was a big old industrial drum, and I was already inside, eating worms left and right."

Gunnar Umlaut is one focus of this novel, a 15-year-old classmate who tells Antsy that he's dying and who is carving himself a tombstone. When we first meet Gunnar, he's telling a kid how Of Mice and Men ends--"the dumb guy dies at the end." Then he reels off a list of spoilers: "Rosebud's a sled, the spider dies after the fair, and the Planet of the Apes is actually Earth in the distant future." Gunnar's interests include making up quotations on the spot, and there's an appendix of his fake quotations at the end of the novel, in case you don't get enough as the story is told (I kind of like Eleanor Roosevelt saying "all right, I admit to having cursed the darkness once or twice"). Antsy comes up with the idea of giving Gunnar a month of his life, and soon people are lining up to donate time to Gunnar.

Antsy gets famous in his school as the "Master of Time," and the nature of such adolescent fame is revealed by the way he describes dressing for the part in a tie "covered with weird melting clocks designed by some dead artist named Dolly." I was also reminded of his age when he leaves the house for a date with Gunnar's older sister Kjersten, telling his mother "I'll be home by eleven...and just in case I'm not, I put the morgue on your speed dial....I made a mental note to actually put the morgue on her speed dial. She'd be mad, but I also knew she'd laugh."

Some of the characters from The Schwa was here reappear in this novel, and Mr. Crawley continues to be "kidnapped" every month. When Antsy and Lexie have a zip line built in a park for his amusement, he turns around and sells it to the city, saying to Antsy "the difference between you and that when I look at the world, I see opportunity. When you look at the world, you're just trying to find a place to urinate." In the end, though, Mr. Crawley turns Antsy's unfortunate display of temper into a tourist attraction, too, saving the day for him and his family. Antsy doesn't manage to save the day for Gunnar and his family, but he does finesse a successful Initial Public Offering on the months remaining in his own life (in a chapter entitled "Life Is Cheap, but Mine Is Worth More Than a Buck Ninety-eight in a Free-Market Economy").

Shusterman is one of the few YA writers who creates intelligent and engaging male protagonists, and Antsy is well worth your acquaintance.

1 comment:

Harriet M. Welsch said...

I'm thinking it would be worth reading based on the inclusion of a character named Gunnar Umlaut alone.