Review: The Firecracker King
Posted by Ana Mardoll at Friday, March 04, 2011 Edit
The Firecracker King
by Matthew Bayan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Firecracker King / B003CV7RMS
Jake isn't rich, but he lives the life every boy dreams of - a life on a lake, in T-shirts and swim trunks every day, fishing, swimming, and staging spectacularly huge fireworks displays on the lake at night (where he gets the money for all the fireworks is a detail sacrificed for the sake of good YA literature). When his line catches on a dead body dumped in the lake, however, his summer promises to be more complicated than he had expected.
The characterization, dialogue, and pacing in this excerpt are wonderful. It's rare, even in published literature, to find dialogue that flows as easily and realistically as it does here. Jake is fun and adventurous, whether he is mocking the small-town police who ask Jake how he "knew" to find the dead body in the water, or when he is haggling with his friends for fireworks, or when he is staging massive water battles in the middle of the lake with roman candles and cherry bombs. There's a real vividness to the writing here that draws the reader in and makes the setting very visceral and close to the lake.
If there are two very minor little nitpicks that I can make as a suggestion, I was a little thrown when Jake mentions that he grew up in the 50's. I read and reread that section, and it just doesn't sound quite right somehow - almost as if Jake is suddenly aware that he is narrating to an audience, an awareness that effects authorial intrusion. Maybe the passage could be tweaked to say that when he was 7, he couldn't go to the music store by himself and now that he was old enough, the doo-wop hits weren't being sold in stores - without the "I grew up in the fifties" line that sounds somewhat awkward since Jake hasn't grown up yet at all. I would also gently request that authors not use the term "rape" as slang for hard haggling - I know you're going for realism in the dialogue, but I think you can achieve that without using that particular term, especially in a YA novel where you will have to court the parents and gatekeepers at least as much as your target audience.
NOTE: This review is based on a sample excerpt of this book provided through the ABNA contest.
~ Ana Mardoll
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