________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 3 . . . . September 18, 2015


Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius.

Stacey Matson. Illustrated by Simon Kwan.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2015.
255 pp., hardcover, ebook & Apple ed., $16.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-3388-3 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4431-3390-6 (ebook), ISBN 978-1-4431-4672-2 (Apple ed.).

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Kay Weisman.

**** /4



Pounding the Pavement: The Terry Fox Run
By Arthur Bean

I think that we can all agree that Terry Fox was a hero. He was strong and brave and an amazing athlete. But I need to take a stand here, even though it's going to be unpopular. Socially conscious writers sometimes need to take a risk for our art.

I would like to say that any guy who thinks he can run ACROSS CANADA clearly had a screw loose. For one thing, the chafing! And the blisters! It just seems awful. I don't believe someone would choose to run that far. Still, every September every kid in every school everywhere in Canada has to run something like a tenth of how far Terry Fox ran as a reminder to never dream too big.

Along with everyone else I had to join in the Terry Fox Jr. High Terry Fox Run last week. Of course it was raining that day, but there wasn't any point in putting on a rain jacket. I was just going to be sweaty inside the jacket anyway. I envied the kids with notes excusing them from physical activity. It wasn't the first time that I wished I could be hit lightly by a car, just enough that my ankle fractured or something. Only the athletes like the run. The rest of us suffer through, except that group that seems to have some secret route where they get to sit under a tree for an hour and saunter in later. . . .

In this sequel to A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius, Arthur, Robbie, and Kennedy return for grade eight at Terry Fox Jr. High. Now best friends, Arthur and Robbie have spent the summer at Arts Camp where Arthur met girlfriend Anila and Robbie "borrowed" a top-of-the-line video camera to use for their upcoming movie project. The script for the boys' zombie adventure progresses nicely until AV Club newcomer Von Ipo (who would have everyone believe he is basically an expert in everything) joins them. Further complicating matters, the currently unattached Kennedy takes a romantic interest in Arthur. Predictably, everything falls apart: Robbie's estranged mother threatens to obtain custody and move him to North Carolina; Arthur feels the heat about the purloined camera—which is now hidden in his bedroom closet; and Kennedy's interest in Arthur wanes as soon as he breaks up with Anila.

      Matson excels in portraying young teen characters that exhibit some of the most annoying (but entirely believable) traits imaginable. And yet, readers also root for them. Arthur's ego is enormous, but he is also a kind and loyal friend; Robbie loses his temper, but he acts out because his home situation is out of control; and Von is the biggest braggart the world has ever seen, perhaps because he is looking for a friend. Only Kennedy Laurel, Arthur's cliché- and acronym-obsessed heartthrob, comes off as less than endearing, perhaps because in this book she is under the control of BFF and mean girl Catie.

      As in the earlier book, Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius is revealed through notes, class assignments, journal entries, text messages, and emails. Overall, the tone is humourous, but there's also a subtle richness to the prose. Arthur is uncomfortable receiving overly sentimental emails and texts from Anila, and yet later, he sends similar, cloying missives to Kennedy. And many times Arthur's writing assignments seem to be tailor-made opportunities for him to work out problems that he faces—and yet he always opts for the ridiculous and the absurd. One more sequel is in the works; in the meantime, stock up on this popular series.

Highly Recommended.

Kay Weisman works as a youth Librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library.

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

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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