________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 25 . . . . March 1, 2013



Alison Hughes.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2013.
158 pp., trade pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0147-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0148-6 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0149-3 (epub).

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Kim Aippersbach.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Chapter 4
I Try To Get You On My Side Even Though I Sound Kind Of Whiny

I'm calmer now. I've thrown out my
Top Ten Things To Do To Stop Macy list, which included running away and living in the school Dumpster, blowing up our computer (if baking soda and vinegar do the trick for science-project volcanoes, why wouldn't they work on a hard drive?) and catching a highly contagious, preferably disfiguring disease.

Nothing will work.

Nothing stops Macy. I should know.

So, Spin, you say, trying to be nice even though you're confused and annoyed with me, what's the big deal? Just tell them you don't want to model anymore. Get out of it. And shut up already.

Well, I reply, trying to speak slowly and keep my slightly hysterical voice down, thanks for your understanding and concern, but it's just not that simple.

Poser is the light-hearted story of Luke "Spin" Spinelli, a 12-year-old who has been modeling since he was a baby but hates it and is terrified that his school friends will find out. Spin has been systematically lying to his friends and teachers about why he is absent from school so often for model shoots. He is particularly worried that one kid will discover his secret career: Shay, "a combination bully-jerk. A burk."

      The story begins when Spin's Aunt Macy, his agent, decides to "crank" her career "up a whole nother notch" by starting a modeling agency, with Spin as her star client. When Macy gets Spin a big contract that will require a significant amount of missed school, he comes up with a "monster lie": he invents the disease "monopoliitis" and tells his principal that he needs "Surgery. Recovery. Uh, therapy." And he asks her to keep it a secret. "Mom is so upset she can't talk about it. She just can't. Really, don't talk to her about it. At all."

      Spin gets the opportunity to join the school hockey team, and he signs up without consulting his mom or aunt, in defiance of "The Calendar That Rules Our Lives," with all his modeling shoots booked in red. Then his principal decides to organize a school "FUNdraiser" to benefit the local hospital, in support of a student "who is courageously fighting a private battle with a life-threatening disease." Now Spin feels terrible that his lie has created this whole campaign, and he is worried that someone will find out he is the kid with the disease.

      Shay finds a picture of Spin in a bridal magazine, and he photocopies it and posts it up all over the school, but Spin discovers that he can defuse Shay's mockery by making fun of Shay reading a bridal magazine. And, because it was an older picture, no one figures out that Spin is still modeling.

      Spin finally confesses to his mother that he hates modeling, and she and Aunt Macy agree that he can quit. And he gets out of a dreaded modeling shoot with "psycho-freak girl model" Clarissa by accidentally smashing his face during his first hockey game.

      The plot sounds more complicated than it is: Poser is a simple story about a boy who worries about a lot of things that don't end up happening. The charm of this novel is the character of Spin and his hilarious narration of his worries and the little problems that do happen.

      The entire first chapter is a discussion of how the book got its title.

I probably shouldn't start this story with a rant. I probably should try to be dignified, welcome you in and let you get to know me before I start complaining. But the whole argument over the title of this book was just so typical of the kids of hassles in my life that it's as good a place as any to begin.

      Spin exaggerates every little "hassle" he encounters. He's self-depreciating, and he seems self-aware, but he's not in the least.

So here's a quick plot summary: our story starts out with some minor cringeworthy events, morphs into a gigantic monster lie, and some more humiliation, then there's a really excruciatingly embarrassing part, and then, just when you have your fingers pressed to your mouth and think it can't get any worse . . well, I won't give it all away.

I've probably said enough. Everybody says I talk too much. Although on the plus side, people also say I get less annoying the more you get to know me.

      Readers will identify with Spin's angst while recognizing how minor his problems really are, and this dichotomy is the basis of the book's humor. You can't help liking Spin. He's a really funny kid, and it's entertaining to spend time with him.

      Supporting characters are all interesting, well-rounded and hilariously described by Spin:

The Hair always comes up as a topic of conversation with Chad, like it's an important world event or something. Breaking news at six: The world financial crisis, war declared, and Chad's Hair gets highlighted . . .

      Humor that works is one of the surest ways to appeal to young (especially male) readers. Poser is funny and easy to read and will be extremely popular.

Highly Recommended.

Kim Aippersbach is a freelance editor and writer with three children in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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