Bucking the Sarge
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Bucking the Sarge

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  945 ratings  ·  117 reviews
Luther T. Farrell has got to get out of Flint, Michigan.

As his best friend Sparky says, “Flint’s nothing but the Titanic.”

And his mother, a.k.a. the Sarge, says, “Take my advice and stay off the sucker path.”

The Sarge milked the system to build an empire of slum housing and group homes. Luther’s just one of the many people trapped in the Sarge’s Evil Empire—but he’s about...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 9th 2006 by Laurel Leaf (first published September 14th 2004)
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Community Reviews

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Laura
I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City. Fabulous job with the narration!

I loved, loved, loved the voice of Luther in this book. Funny, honest, and unique. He quotes philosophers inaccurately and without credit. Some of the quotes will go over the heads of many readers, but that doesn't make the book any less enjoyable.

As much as I liked the book, I don't quite understand one of the most important relationships: Luther and his mother, the Sarge. I never...more
Kit
As always, Christopher Paul Curtis makes me laugh, but this book is darker and for an older audience than Bud Not Buddy. Luther's mom is, not to put too fine a point on it, a slum lord. Although she has arguments for *why* she's a slum lord, most of the movement of this book involves Luther's inner struggle to distance himself from his mother - hopefully without getting beaten up by her rent-a-thug - and make amends for some of the things she's done. Luther is occasionally dim, but it's his pal...more
Abby Johnson
Luther has a few goals in life. 1) To become a world-famous philosopher, 2) to be wealthy, and 3) to win first place in his school science fair three years in a row. He knows he's on his way to 1 and 2, but 3 will take some work. It's hard to find time to work on his project when he's always busy doing chores for the Sarge. The Sarge is Luther's mom and she's always got something for him to do. Heck, she got him his driver's license at age 15 so he could help out with the family business. Luther...more
Andi
Luther T. Farrell is a 15-year-old boy living in Flint, Michigan, employed by his mother to run one of her group homes and clean out her run-down rental houses after her tenants are evicted. He is learning all the tricks of her trade, but he doesn’t like it. From her point of view, she is taking care of him and herself, and getting some of what’s due. The more you know of her the more horrified you become.

The book is so well written it is a joy to read, even as it frightens and saddens me. The h...more
Arminzerella
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Richie Partington
16 May 2004 BUCKING THE SARGE by Christopher Paul Curtis, Random House/Wendy Lamb Books, September 2004, ISBN: 0-385-32307-7; ISBN Library: 0-385-0159-3
The nation's fifth and sixth grade teachers will return to school in September just in time to discover that Christopher Paul Curtis has forsaken them. BUCKING THE SARGE is not a book that they will be reading aloud to their students in the same way that thousands of them have been reading THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, 1963 and BUD NOT BUDDY.
But...more
Elisa
Rating : **** This book deals with complex issues in a humorous and thoughtful way. Christopher Paul Curtis is great at writing memorable characters that have great depth.
Plot Summary: Luther T. Farrell is a fifteen year old boy who is very mature for his age. He runs one of his mother’s (AKA the Sarge) group homes for men, lives there without his mother, and has been driving since he was thirteen. All Luther T. Farrell wants is to win the school science fair for the third time. But his mother...more
April Helms
I listened to this one on CD while my best friend and I were working on various projects. This was one of those "saw it on the shelf, and it looked promising" choices. I had read "Bud, Not Buddy," and "Elijah of Buxton," and had enjoyed those. This, too, was entertaining, although it should be noted that while the previous two books are more for older grade school, this one is more of a Young Adult book. Issues of sex and sexuality are discussed, and the protagonist's mother and her stooges are...more
Caroline
Oct 11, 2007 Caroline rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people from Michigan; anyone who has a domineering parent
Shelves: listened-to
I gotta say - I loved this book! I was cheering for my main man Luther the whole time! He's a smart, kind, responsible 14-year-old kid from Flint, Michigan, who is helplessly bound up in his mother's (aka The Sarge's) shady business dealings. She's basically a professional nickle-and-dimer...and Luther goes along with it...but finds ways to maintain some sort of moral standards. He and his friend Sparky are looking for a way out: Luther wants a way out of his mother's control, and Sparky wants a...more
Debbie
Dec 06, 2007 Debbie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teens
Luther's mother, "the Sarge," is a ruthless slumlord who values money above all else. While still in Middle School, Luther manages a halfway house and drives with an illegal license. The Sarge doesn't pay him, but puts his earnings into a college fund that he's never seen. Luther wants to win the school science fair for the third year in a row. He fancies himself a philosopher, and loves to quote Aristotle and Socrates. When Luther finds out how low the Sarge really is, he hatches a plan for rev...more
Rachael
The author is a great humorist, and the story kept my interest, but at the same time it was too improbable. An 8th grade boy is misused by his money-hungry mom as he works at her old folks home and rental business. He drives a van around town and does all kinds of things an 8th grader should never, and probably would never do. At the same time, he has his own school life, and is a remarkable kid doing some good things despite his upbringing. I can't recommend it to the age it was intended for th...more
Josiah
Christopher Paul Curtis continually amazes me. He can tell a story so wild and crazy that the entire idea behind it seems totally outlandish and absurd, completely unbelievable, yet he is so skillful at finding ways to ground his characters in the bedrock of reality that, ultimately, the story doesn't feel all that far-fetched after all. There is no one like Christopher Paul Curtis.

At age fourteen, Luther finds himself in the unpaid (practically speaking, at least) employment of his mother, wh...more
NS - Cami Houston
9-12 grade audio- Fifteen-year-old wannabe philosopher Luther T. Farrell knows a few things about life. He knows the Sarge (his rich, shrewd, slumlord mom) is tougher than nails and that he better not cross her. He knows his chances of using Chauncey, the ancient condom in his wallet, are slim to none. And, he knows that despite his goal to attend Harvard, he may end up stuck in Flint, Michigan, cleaning toilets in his mom's loathsome empire. Luther spends much of his time helping the Sarge run...more
Linda Lipko
In this ALA Best Book for YA winner of 2005, Christopher Paul Curtis once again provides the reader with a very likable host of characters. Curtis' trademark is to portray serious subjects with poignant humor, and this book follows that standard.

Unlike his other books, Curtis does not delve into historical content. In this modern day story Luther T. Farrell has some problems. First and foremost his mother, nicknamed by him as "The Sarge" is an angry, mean spirited greedy woman. Her tough as nail...more
Clare
It’s hard growing up in Flint, Michigan and even harder when your ambition is to be America’s most successful and wealthy philosopher. “Doing the right thing is like that, you get a strong feeling of relief, sort of like a giant rock has been lifted off your back. Or like the dump you take the day after you eat the ten-taco special from Los Aztecos.” Yet fourteen year-old-Luther T. Farrell has dreams and ambitions, and nothing, not even his mother, the Sarge, can stop him.

I kept laughing at Luth...more
Lightbringer_merriman
I read this book in either middle school or high school, and some parts and scenes from it still come back to me, sticking with me. One part is this dynamic of cynicism versus hope. The Sarge has a cynical worldview, based on a very practical outlook at a world that's stacked the deck against them, so she's decided to lie and cheat and manipulate her way back. In a sad way, I found myself empathizing with her, especially her anger at a flawed, corrupt society. She didn't think she could beat the...more
Jessica
Audiobooks are amazing---but usually when I read them it is solely for the dramatic, the sad, the creepy moments that amazing narrators bring to life. I can rarely recall an audiobook narrator that had me smiling and continuously laughing from dialogue and situations the character would experience. It was an almost a feel good book---almost.

This book covers a multitude of middle school issues from coming of age to understanding an impoverish society. It presents two solid viewpoints: Luther and...more
Katie
Deeply involved in his cold and manipulative mother's shady business dealings in Flint, Michigan, fourteen-year-old Luther keeps a sense of humor while running the Happy Neighbor Group Home For Men, all the while dreaming of going to college and becoming a philosopher.


How would you feel if you were 15 years old, lived in Flint, Michigan, had a mom who was a slum lord and made you work at least 40 hours a week on top of going to school? On top of that your job entails cleaning up nasty apartments...more
Von Fritz
Bucking the Sarge is the book that recently gave me such euphoric satisfaction. No exxageration with that. Remember the book? It's one of those cheap books I bought beside the City Hall. Can't believe one of them was such a literary treasure.

So what's Bucking the Sarge all about? It's a story of plotting your plans for running away from the town you hated most. And meet its hero...Luther T. Farell...whose name's always mispronounced as Loser T. Farell. Laughs.

What made the book so funny is the f...more
Annie
the story of Luther T. Ferrell, a young man of a philosophical bent whose self-effacing good humor helps him as he deals with life. Life, for Luther, includes his mother, aka. The Sarge and her right hand man Darnell Dickson, who is always prepared to break someone's arm in the line of duty as he serves the Sarge's "evil empire" of tenement housing and group homes. Luther's life also includes his "crew", the inhabitants of the the Happy Neighbors group home, which Luther is in sole charge of. I...more
Stevecrandell
Funniest one-liners of the year thus far. The narrator, 15-year-old Luther Farrell, has a hugely inflated sense of self, and is the target of most of the jokes. He’s guardian of a haggard crew of senior citizens in Flint, Michigan. The old guys are hilarious: easily bribed with ice cream and TV, and just coherent enough to get their digs in.

There’s a sinister side to this story as well. Luther works for his mom, a heartless slumlord and loan shark. Luther dreams of righting her wrongs, but he s...more
Katie Graham
This was solidly good! I loved the voice of Luther (the narrator)!! It was sad in parts but I also laughed out loud. Luther learned about doing the right thing, the true meaning of independence, and importance of having people to look out for you (his own mom didn't but he had others who did). I'd recommend it to anyone. 4 stars because setting and characterization were a bit confusing at times.
 Imani ♥ ☮
Yet another one of Curtis's books I loved. YAYAY! :DDDDD

Okay, enough of that. Let's get down to it. This book chronicles the life of high school student, Luther. He lives in Flint, which his friend thinks of as a horrible place to be. Luther's mother runs apartments and things like that, and is quite rich. She employs Luther to drive around for her. Luther even has a driver's license and credit cards. Luther, however, thinks of his mother as a sergeant, a Sarge, because she's so strict and compl...more
Janette
Christopher Paul Curtis is great at coming up with memorable characters. He also does a great job of making you like flawed characters. Anyone interested in character driven novels should read his stuff. Curtis is also good with humor. I laughed more than once during this book.

I only had two complaints about the book. First, I know it's the trend right now in boy books--but I really don't want to know about a character's self-love and the magazines he keeps under his mattress. Really, that is ju...more
Kathryne
Jul 16, 2008 Kathryne rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: ya
This is Curtis’ first novel for high school age readers. Set in modern day Flint, Michigan, Luther T. Farrell, the 14 year old protagonist, dreams of the day when he can escape Flint and his domineering mother, aka The Sarge. Luther is book smart but when it comes to understanding what’s going on around him, he’s a bit clueless. The Sarge is the local slum lord and her son is just another one of her puppets. He is running a nursing home for men with the promise that his wages are being put in a...more
Roger DeBlanck
A self-ascribed “philosopher,” fifteen-year old Luther Farrell must battle the moral depravity of his mother, the Sarge. Her shallow business dealings keep Luther confined to the projects in Flint, Michigan. But Luther uses his intelligence and ambitions to make a break from the Sarge and the city of Flint in order to relize his true self. His dreams embody the hope that can be realized with hard work and courage. Filled with humor and heartbreak, this YA novel captures the cultural experience o...more
Matt Laucamp
Bucking the Sarge in my opinion is a very good book for teens. The Sarge is a kid named Luther's mom's Nickname. If your a teen and you think you have to work a lot, Think about having to run your own mens home, make sure they have all there medicine, read them stories,Have your own cleanup crew, and clean up and paint old houses. Oh yeah and your mom is the bossiest lady in town! There would be benefits of being Luther T. Farrell he got to start driving when he was thirteen!He has a college fu...more
Erin Forson
Bucking the Sarge
by
Luther T. Farrell is the luckiest middle schooler on planet Earth. He's got a driver's license, his own ride, 90 grand in the bank, and more money in his pocket than he can possibly spend. So what's the problem? Well, Luther's mom is a criminal. She's not the mobster type who "rubs out" those who make her angry, she's more of a petty thief, although her actions do hurt others. The trade off for Luther's extra privileges is compromising his morals. How do you stand up for what'...more
Heather
I was captivated by this story as we listened to it in my car. Unique characters and story. It has a very realistic feel to it, but I would almost call this a fantasy (since I personally don't know any 13-year-olds with a drivers' license and a "crew" to take care of). The only part I didn't like was the end. I wanted to see the consequences of Luther's actions so badly! Would he really get away from Flint? And would good really win over evil in the end? Maybe someday Curtis will write a sequel....more
Mari Jo
This is a very humorous yet well written novel the even makes reluctant readers laugh, want to read more, and see what happens to the believable characters author Curtis has created. Teenagers relate well to the boys in the book and their domineering mother: The Sarge. The situations they get themselves in and out of have the kids laughing in class, and saying "I like this book." I use the audio CD's from the public library in my classroom so that all levels of readers can follow along; I teach...more
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Curtis was born in Flint, Michigan on May 10, 1953 to Dr. Herman Elmer Curtis, a chiropodist, and Leslie Jane Curtis, an educator. The city of Flint plays an important role in many of Curtis's books. One such example is Bucking the Sarge, which is about a fifteen year old boy named Luther T. Ferrel, who is in a running battle with his slum-lord mother. Curtis is an alumnus of the University of Mic...more
More about Christopher Paul Curtis...
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“Things aren't ever what they seem to be when you first look at them. What's important is that you keep your mind wide open and try to understand what's going on from a lot of different angles.” 6 likes
“You know, there's something especially lonely about a gold medal hanging all by itself on a bedroom wall, something that says "fluke," or "beginner's luck," or "one in a million," but two gold medals, now that says something completely different. That says, "Oh, yeah, baby, this is the real deal!” 4 likes
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