Monday, October 17, 2011
Marley is having a tough time in middle school. Bullies are his main problem; one gang in particular gets a lot of fun out of chasing him and beating him up, and another kid forces him to share his homework and test answers. Not only that, he mistakens a new girl in the AV Club for a boy. Things start to brighten when a new girl befriends him, but his ex-best friend, basketball jock Stanford, soon throws a wrench into the relationship.
Although this is part of Lisa Yee's Millie Trilly trilogy, it's not necessary to have read its predecessor, Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time, in order to enjoy and understand the story. Although Warp Speed covers serious issues-bullying and, later, child abuse-it's not written in a heavy-handed and preachy way.
Lisa Yee gets middle school culture like few middle grade authors do. Her portrayal of the dorky teacher who thinks she's cool (by composing groan-inducing raps), cheesy issues-oriented (and carefully diversified) videos that the students are forced to watch, and the bullying campaign that's long on message but short on action (created by the PTA in a scene that's worth the price of the book) are sharp, hilarious, and truthful. Child abuse rears its painful head later in the story; it is handled appropriately, realistically, and honestly. Marley's mother is blind, which adds an important dimension to the story; in this subplot, Yee paints a realistic picture of the assumptions and condescending attitudes (in a brilliant scene at the putting range) that many have toward the legally blind. Yee's depiction of geek culture (the AV club fights over the various merits of superheros) is also spot on. As you can see, there are several heavy issues addressed within the story, but Yee juggles them expertly and with plenty doses of humor and wry commentary in order to lighten the mood. Marley is a fantastic character; readers will cheer him wholeheartedly along the way.
Posted by Jennifer Schultz at Monday, October 17, 2011