By Todd Hasak-Lowy
Published 2013 by Aladdin
Morgan Sturtz and Sam Lewis used to be best friends. "Used to be" because Morgan is about to kick Sam's butt - in 33 minutes. How will Sam make it through the dread and anticipation of the next half hour? And is there any way he can avoid getting his butt kicked?
I requested this one on NetGalley as part of my efforts to read more tween books in 2013. It sounded like something that would appeal to tween boys especially - the main character knows he's going to be forced into a fight with his former best friend at recess and there isn't much he can do to get out of it. I wanted to see how the issue of male friendship would be handled in this book, especially as compared to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I've made no secret (well, maybe not here, but in real life) of the fact that I think Greg is a terrible friend and I hate the way he treats Rowley. Seeing as how this book deals directly with how male friendships can evolve over time, I was very interested. I liked how readers initially don't know why Sam and Morgan aren't friends anymore. We are told the story from Sam's point of view and he seems less than eager to relieve all the details of their friendship's fallout. But we do get bits and pieces leading up to the whole story. I think Hasak-Lowy does a fantastic job of charting a friendship over the years, especially the very tricky years from being kids (age 6 or so) to becoming teens (I think the kids are 13 in the book, though I don't remember if it's mentioned specifically). Though it might not appear that way at first, this is a difficult period of life - popularity becomes a bigger and bigger issue at school and how one attains popular status comes through very different means as you get to the upper end of this range. The descriptions of Sam and Morgan's drifting apart are incredibly realistic, almost painfully so. Similarly, Sam's confusion and sadness about the current state of their friendship is genuine and heartbreaking. I liked how the whole book takes place over the course of those titular 33 minutes - it gives the novel a nice pacing and frame. And, perhaps my favorite thing about the book is the ending. I don't want to give it away, but I think Hasak-Lowy has given us the most truthful ending possible and it really makes the book feel that much more plausible and accurate. The book does have its funny bits and I think kids will pick it up based on the title alone.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.