Review Blog

Jul 31 2016

The pain, my mother, cyber boy, Sir Tiffy and me by Michael Gerard Bauer

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Scholastic, 2016. ISBN 9781742991504
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Humour, School, Cats, Nursing home. When The Pain comes into Maggie's life she does all she can to avoid him. Danny is mum's new boyfriend, and loves to sing at inappropriate moments, and makes the most outrageous jokes. He was also the nurse on duty in the local emergency department when she was brought in drunk following a sleepover, so her embarrassment compounds itself. But nearing the end of year ten, Maggie has several aims: getting a partner for the end of year dance, making a good friend at her school and achieving an A for English. Seems simple enough but her attempts to achieve these goals will have readers laughing uproariously as she staggers from one disaster to another.
Bauer uses a diary like format to achieve his aim. The text is full of sentences in capital letters, an army of apostrophes and so much hyperbole that each page sings with irony and sarcasm.
He makes no pretense of showing the reader what these grammatical conventions mean and they will love him for it, learning about them with a great dose of humour.
Maggie is an outsider at her school, and so thinks that achieving her aim of a good A for English will be simple, but she has not accounted for the replacement nun, Sister Evangelista, who tries to curb Maggie's exuberance in writing while developing her editing skills. Her Macbeth essay forms a link through the novel. But Maggie needs to get a male person to be her partner at the dance, and asking Jeremy Tyler-Roy elicits the most extraordinary response. When she finds out why this happened she wreaks revenge upon some of the girls in her year group with unsurprising results. While school grinds on at home she must still put up with Danny and with the cat he brings her to babysit until he finds it a permanent home. On the night of the school dance they eventually find some shared sympathy and almost all of her aims are achieved. This is a wonderful read, full of humour and laughs, with some gems of observation. A stint at the local nursing home reveals that Sister Evangelista's wry comment about judging books by their covers has some resonance and this spills over into many aspects of Maggie's life.
I loved reading this book and was very sad to leave these characters behind. All of them are multi layered, with depths revealed as the story unfolds. Bauer is an acute spectator of these people's behaviors and it wonderful to see an author leave elements for the reader to work out for themselves.
Fran Knight

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