CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 35. . . .May 13, 2016
Eighth-grader Cameron Boxer prides himself on being a slacker—doing the least he can do to get by, coming in under the radar at school, spending every spare minute doing nothing but playing video games. After his house almost burns down due to his inattention, his parents give him an ultimatum: get involved in something, or quit gaming. So Cameron and his friends invent a fake service club, the Positive Action Group, by hacking their school’s website. His parents convinced, Cameron’s continued slacker-ism is undermined by an eager guidance counselor and an activist fellow student who hype the P.A.G. until it literally dominates charitable actions in their town, leading to sabotage attempts by a rival high-school club. The school forces the P.A.G. to shut down, but Cam revives it for one last shot—saving the town by preventing its lone freeway exit from being demolished.
Like vintage Korman, this book takes a ridiculous-sounding premise and spins it into a believable, fast-moving, inspiring tour-de-farce, alternately hilarious and poignant, with characters that scream out for your sympathy. Cam is larger than life, a lovable lout; his younger sister Melody perceptive and whip-smart; activist Daphne determined and smarter-than-thou; guidance counselor Mr. Fanshaw earnest and occasionally pitiable. Even the school principal, forced to shut down the P.A.G. after a huge confrontation with the rival group, is, understandable, a victim of politics and liability concerns. Elvis, the orphan beaver that Daphne initially wants as the P.A.G. focus, becomes a symbol, a talisman both of the complications of charitable action and of the ridiculous premise at the base of the story.
And what a story it is—Cam, the most reluctant of reluctant heroes, carried cheering on the shoulders of an inspired action group that he can’t control anymore, no one wise to his deception but his gaming friends and his sister, saving an injured senior in her home while he ducks out from P.A.G. service to check his game on his phone. It seems to turn on the most entertaining and sharp of points—the school bully, so happy at having a purpose that he secretly gives Cam a gift he’s made in craft class; Cam’s gaming friends (and even him) finding that games aren’t as thrilling as real life; Melody turning out to be Cam’s biggest online gaming rival; the high-school cheerleader who terrorizes Cam so she can keep her do-gooder image alive for her college application; and finally, Cam’s turnaround, when he realizes for a moment the power he has when the town is faced with a crisis. Their downtown dying, his parents’ furniture store losing business, the P.A.G. blocks the demolition of their freeway exit and earns a reprieve from the government.
But Slacker is still a story for kids, and it neither condemns Cam’s lifestyle nor elevates him to sainthood. In the end, he’s still Cam, competing at a video game tournament, profoundly changed, but still a kid with his own stubborn passion. Slacker hits every mark.
Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario and President of the Ontario Library Association.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any
other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.