Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Fourth Stall

When Noir meets The Godfather in the bathroom of a grade school you get The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander. It is an interesting concept and there are many amusing parts to the book. I think that it is quite possible that much of it will go over the heads of its intended audience though. However, I can also see how this might appeal to a certain boy reader who is into super heroes, crime shows, and action moves and video games. (So, most boys really).

Summary (From Goodreads):
Do you need something? Mac can get it for you. It's what he does—he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Their methods might sometimes run afoul of the law, or at least the school code of conduct, but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can pay him, Mac is on your side. His office is located in the East Wing boys' bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming.
Or at least it was, until one particular Monday. It starts with a third grader in need of protection. And before this ordeal is over, it's going to involve a legendary high school crime boss named Staples, an intramural gambling ring, a graffiti ninja, the nine most dangerous bullies in school, and the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in almost seventy years. And that's just the beginning. Mac and Vince soon realize that the trouble with solving everyone else's problems is that there's no one left to solve yours.

Mac is the narrator of this story and he is a sympathetic one. He and Vince started a business to help the kids in their school. It is an underground business and they have "hired muscle" and clandestine arrangements with the janitorial staff, but they are not doing anything illegal. Although they certainly have the minds to go there someday and they are more than a little vigilante in their methods. Batman wannabes without the altruistic motives, because they are in need of a cash flow. Then they run afoul of the high school gambling syndicate and their business, friendship, and way of life is all threatened. 

What I Liked: Mac has several struggles with his conscience that are very real and he learns a lot about being a loyal friend. I liked how Mac and Vince dealt with the struggles in their friendship and how they resolved their issues with each other. And that both of them seemed to learn from it.

What Concerned Me:  Mac blurs the lines between right and wrong quite a bit and his narration gives tips on how to be a better liar and avoid adult detection. There is also a lot of violence. There are several fights and kids are being bullied and the adults are oblivious to all of it. There were many scenes that had me thinking this is a book I would want to be familiar enough with to discuss with my son if he were reading it.

 The inside cover says the book is for ages 8-12 but honestly I think 10-13 might be a better demographic.

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