Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Antsy Does Time by Neal Shusterman

Main character: 8th-grader Antsy
Location: Brooklyn
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction

This is a sequel, of sorts, to Shusterman's "The Schwa Was Here." And as in that book, the secondary character is named for a Diacritical mark--in this case Gunnar Umlaut (A+220). (What's in store for his next Antsy book? Francois Cedille? Jose Tilde?) But I digress. This is yet another Shusterman book that uses humor to mask a very serious subject.

Antsy is paired up with Gunnar to do a project based on John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. When Antsy goes over to Gunnar's house, he discovers that Gunnar is carving his own headstone--he has an extremely rare, incurable disease and only has about six months to live. Stunned, Antsy offers Gunnar a month of his own life. He even writes up a contract to formalize his gift. The next day at school, word begins to creep around and before he knows it, Antsy is speaheading a movement to extend Gunnar's life a day or a month at a time.

In the meantime, Antsy is also dealing with his workaholic father, a rapidly growing crush on Gunnar's sister, and the fact that their attempt to turn Gunnar's back yard into a recreation of the Dust Bowl has worked a little too well and is killing all the neighboring lawns as well. There is also the very strained feeling in the Umlaut household whenever Mr. Umlaut is at home.

Antsy is a great character. He is impulsive but good hearted. Even when things come tumbling down on top of him, you can't help but root for him.

Antsy Does Time is on the 2009-2010 Lone Star Reading List.

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