Tuesday, February 10, 2009

BOOKS: Review- Zen and the Art of Faking It

I have been working on a novel aimed at the Young Adult audience forever. It will get done, the question of when is up in the air. In the meantime, every now and then I pick up a book and say to myself, "I wish I had written that!"

Such a book is Jordan Sonnenberg's Zen and the Art of Faking It.

San Lee is typical of a journeyman sort of student. He's the NEW GUY in grade eight in a school he describes as being in Nowheresville, Pennsylvania. And the curriculum at the school seems about a half-year behind that of the Houston school he left behind. San is bright, socially inept ... and bored.

He lets a random incident build him a rep as a zen adherent. Sitting around on a rock bare-footed in the cold of a Pennsylvanian late fall will do that for you. It immediately makes him interesting to the girl of his dreams, the red-headed, guitar-playing Woody. Having the usual juvenile inability to admit to being 'not' interesting, San decides the role of a reborn mystic is more promising than that of his real life. He goes all zen, all the time.

This leads to gusts in his popularity, and the resulting fall from same. All the while, the teachers, so often portrayed as dolts in tales like this, have been on to him from the start. He's forced to actually research his zen role. And in doing so, he does a lot of learning. There's some pretty good advice in those books.

The book basically concludes with a basketball game featuring the popular clique of regular team stars against a rag-tag bunch of bench jockeys led by San. The outcome is NOT surprising, but produces a grin, none-the-less. From there, we proceed to a scene between the estranged Woody (real name; Emily) and San that concludes with the realization that NEXT YEAR IS HIGH SCHOOL!

Sonnenberg's ability to couch advice into a humorous tale makes him an author to watch for in the future.

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