The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
Publication date: 8 February, 2011 from Walden Pond Press
ISBN 10/13: 0061994960 / 9780061994968
Category: Middle Grade Fiction
Format: Hardcover (Review copy from publisher)
Keywords: Fiction, humor, friendship
Do you need something? Mac can get it for you. It's what he does—he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Their methods might sometimes run afoul of the law, or at least the school code of conduct, but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can pay him, Mac is on your side. His office is located in the East Wing boys' bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming.
Or at least it was, until one particular Monday.
How I found out about this book: I'd just seen the cover on the Elevensies blog when I got an email from Walden Pond Press about reviewing it. I said Yes, and then I jumped up and down. Then I ate a cannoli. :D
Alethea's review: From the Godfather reference on the cover to the creepiest little psycho bully you'll ever meet, The Fourth Stall entertained me and--I'll confess--worried me a little. How many bathroom-based businesses will be started this year by impressionable youngsters?! I'm torn between a giggle and a shudder.
I did employ equal parts laughing and cringing while reading this book--there's a reference to one of my favorite tv shows, Arrested Development, that pretty much knocked me off the couch--apparently it's Chris's favorite show, too. ("PopPop gets a Grisham?") Rylander gets the noir tone just right. In my head, Mac appeared to me as a cross between a 12-year-old J.G.L. in Angels in the Outfield and Zachary Gordon's voice from The Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies.
The cringing part typically accompanied the occasional bouts of violence--Mac has to take on the legendary bully and bookie Staples, whose shady business is threatening to ruin not just Mac's own endeavor, but the daily life of his school, not to mention his and Vince's dream of watching the Chicago Cubs play--and maybe even win--The World Series. Staples is sneaky, and employs--*shudder*--big, ugly high school kids to do his dirty work.
I'm not a baseball fan, but I did enjoy the devotion with which Mac talks about his favorite team. It's surpassed only by the loyalty he has to his friends. The Fourth Stall realistically portrays the solidarity and understanding between brothers, though Mac and Vince are definitely not blood-related. Their bond has to outlast not just the trouble-making bullies and the uncertainty of World Series ticket prices, but also a huge betrayal of trust that calls for maturity beyond their years, though not beyond their reach.
My favorite part--*giggle, cringe*--was Kitten. Kitten is the nicest, politest, sweetest little boy you could ever meet. Grown-ups love him. Children fear him. He's by far the most heartless of all the bullies in school. To me, he kind of looked like this:
This is a great book for reluctant readers, sports fans, noir fans, and guys--for whom I kind of feel bad, since a lot of teen fiction skews to the girl market. Maybe not so good for bullies. We wouldn't want to give them any ideas :/
This book should probably come with some kind of contract that the reader signs with a parent to witness them swearing they won't open a betting ring out of the darker recesses of their elementary or middle school. Just in case they take this book a little too seriously.
The Fourth Stall is Chris Rylander's debut novel. Follow @chris_rylander and @waldenpondpress on Twitter.
Shortlink to this review: http://bit.ly/rnsl4stall
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Comments? Win a signed copy of The Fourth Stall. Thanks to Walden Pond Press for the giveaway!
Last day to enter is April 25! Open to US and Canada only.
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