Thursday, January 22, 2009

Double-Click for Trouble by Chris Woodworth

Double-Click for Trouble by Chris Woodworth

Review by Barbara Shoup

Thirteen-year-old Eddie McCall lives in a cramped Chicago apartment with his mom, who works at a hotel coffee bar and spends her evenings taking college courses online—but, nonetheless, manages to keep a tight rein on him. Eddie doesn’t know his dad is, and his mom won’t talk to him about it. He envies his best friend, Whip, who lives with his dad. But his mom disapproves of the relationship because, in her view, Whip’s dad is too permissive and doesn’t monitor his activities enough. So when she discovers that Whip and Eddie have logged on to her computer and looked at a porn site, Eddie suddenly finds himself on his way to summer break with his eccentric, bachelor Great-Uncle Peavy in Sheldon, Indiana.

Peavy’s made occasional visits to Chicago over the years, and he’s always been generous to Eddie and his mom; but Eddie doesn’t really know him. He’s shocked to find that Peavy lives in the decrepit little house he grew up in, a house so poorly furnished that Eddie observes, “Aunt Bea has newer stuff on the reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show.” He chews tobacco, which grosses Eddie out; he doesn’t wash the dishes, just rinses them and puts them back on the shelf; he lays newspapers down on the kitchen floor so he doesn’t have to clean it. Peavy sleeps in the bunk bed he slept in as a child, and when he assigns his dead parent’s bedroom to Eddie, it never occurs to him that Eddie might just be a little freaked out about sleeping there. Not to mention mortified when he assumes Eddie will be helping out with the tractor repair business he runs out of the barn and his helper, Ronnie—a girl—makes fun of Eddie because he doesn’t even know what a lug nut is.

Thank heavens for Ordella Mae, a woman about Peavy’s age, who appears regularly with leftovers from the meals she cooks at the nursing home where she works—and eventually gets him at least a little up to speed in terms of how to take care of a growing boy. Also, Eddie’s instant crush on Erin, the beautiful sixteen-year old clerk at the nearby convenience store (and Ronnie’s sister), helps make his time in Sheldon more bearable.

Chris Woodworth remembers what it’s like to be thirteen, curious but still clueless about sexuality. She knows that everyone’s life is complex and mysterious, regardless of his or her age. She knows about longing. And, dang! She’s a mean plotter! Double-Click for Trouble is beautifully constructed. New threads of plot are deftly introduced, developed and resolved. The twist at the end creates the wonderful blend of surprise and inevitability that readers experience in every really good novel.

Woodworth loves her characters and the small town they live in—but it’s a complicated love, one that reflects her deep understanding about the human condition and an appreciation of its many paradoxes. Over the course of Double-Click for Trouble, Eddie McCall takes his first real steps toward manhood by way of his relationship with his great-uncle, his friendship with Ronnie, and a series of events that makes him understand his mother’s occasionally overzealous efforts to protect him. Woodworth tells Eddie’s story honestly, with respect for the intelligence of her young readers. My guess is that “tweens” will love this book—and I’d highly recommend it to their parents, as well. Reading it, they’ll be thirteen again themselves for a while—which is guaranteed to bring insight to the needs of their own budding teens.

More info:
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374309876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374309879

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