I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve never had much luck with them, so what really is the point? But this year I just happened to finish a book right at the end of the year and it got me thinking about something I’ve wanted to really try for some time now… I want to try and write more book reviews.
Now according to my recent Reading Challenges on Goodreads, I read between 50 and 60 books a year, I can’t promise full reviews on everything I finish, but I do certainly want to give it a go.
So without further ado I give you my first review of 2016, Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart. I came to this book two ways, first it was available in my latest Scholastic Book Order, one of my go to avenues for affordable titles, which reminds me, I think I owe them for my last order? The second path to this book was, of course, the title. How could you not pick up a middle grade novel that looks like this?
I needed a new title for my middle school Guys Read book club to tackle and a book called Death by Toilet Paper for $4 bucks in the book order really seemed to be perfect.
I thought I was in for a zany, madcap sort of story, and it is funny for sure, but I wasn’t ready for what the story turned into.
The story begins, and is peppered throughout, with a correspondence between Royal-T toilet paper company and our main character Benjamin Epstein. These letters will become an interesting thread though the story as they are used to break up the action and it gives Ben the chance to talk to someone outside of his situation. The letters between Ben and the TP company act as a sort of counseling session where Ben can get a few things off of his chest.
Why might a seventh grader need counseling services, well there is where this book caught me off guard. The title and the cover art promise laughs and silliness. The whole opening scene deals with Ben’s best friend and his chef father creating a horror scene for a home movie, with fake blood (salsa) covering everything in the kitchen including the cat! But what we soon learn is that Ben’s father has just passed and his mother is struggling to make ends meet. Soon Ben’s grandfather shows up unexpected and quickly shows signs of memory loss. All of this cast a pretty heavy tone over what I was thinking would be a goofy and lighthearted little story. Ben and his mom, along with grandpa are now just days away from eviction and also just days away from Ben’s mom passing her CPA exams and getting a job that would save them from all of their financial woes. In the end Ben hatches a few ingenious schemes and everything works out.
I really enjoyed Death by Toilet Paper and here are a few of my highlights.
First the chapters are headed with random toilet paper facts. These facts are often hilarious and make me want to do more research on toilets and toilet paper history. Next, Ben’s friend, Toothpick, has a wonderful pension toward making horror films. I am already cueing the rabbit scene from the movie Summer School and Googling recipes for homemade scar wax. The lads of SMS Guys read will have some fun with that idea for sure. Toothpick also always goes to the Mutter Museum for his birthday. Just take a look around their website to see what kind of fun you could have there on a birthday excursion. Finally the grandfather, or Zeyde, as he is referred to in the story adds humor, struggle, heart and heroism to a story that basically is a story about the struggles of family. I dare you to not laugh out loud or pitch your cookies at the scene on page 82 dealing with Ben drinking a glass of water being used by Zeyde. I read it four times to my classes and it still gets me!
I do have to say that my one criticism is that the story is simple in plot and fairly predictable in resolution, but I really did enjoy the read and look forward to some fun Reading Challenges with my Guys Read book club.
So there is my first review of 2016, I hope many more to come. I am just pages away from finishing Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin, so look for that review in the coming days.