The stand-in by Steve Bloom

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Carolrhoda Books, 2016. ISBN 9781512410235
(Age; 14+) Highly recommended. Bildungsroman. Brooks Rattigan is the stand-in and the book's narrator. Desperate to be accepted into Columbia University AND able to afford the fees, working class Brooks founds his own business, escorting rich nerdy graduates to their dances and formals. Celia Lieberman does not approve of the date her parents have arranged and behaves much like Caterina in Shakespeare's The taming of the shrew. The ending is thus foreshadowed.
Complications arise when Brooks' best friend, The Murf, feels that Brooks is abandoning his roots. He doesn't approve of Brooks' blind ambition to attend the elite university, or his method of funding it. Brooks' deadbeat father, himself a Harvard graduate, lets him down and discourages him. Brooks is also attracted to a very shallow, very beautiful high society girl. To make matters worse, Shelby has a very jealous ex-boyfriend.
After a few initial spats, during which Celia is a very ungracious date; she becomes the only person who is demonstrably supportive. Both Celia and Brooks develop into the kind of friends who can rely on each other. This is important because, much to our delight, no two characters in fiction could possibly experience quite so much bad luck.
Steve Bloom's concept is fresh and no doubt the movie rights have already been secured. The characters and their relationships are hilarious because Bloom knows exactly what they should do and say. Brooks is sometimes inspiring - at others contemptible but we must like him. We admire his grit to succeed in the face of failure - to respect women yet exploit their situation at the same time. Most of all we like that he falls for the one girl he started off hating. Brooks Rattigan is a paradox and so are we.
Deborah Robins