Jillian Heise's Reviews > The Fourth Stall

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
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Aug 07, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: boy-appeal-recs, bullying-books, debut-book
Read from February 15 to 22, 2011

Review originally posted at Heise Reads & Recommends

I'm always on the lookout for books that will appeal to the boys in my classes. I struggle to find those books that will really engage them through contemporary situations and humor - well I've now found another one to add to my highly recommended for boys list with THE FOURTH STALL. Chris Rylander has created a funny book with heart. Mac, so nicknamed because he can get anything kids want and can solve their problems, thinks he has everything under control at his school as he works from his office in the basement bathroom that no one uses. He has long lines out the door everyday at recess of other kids needing help, and he runs a tight ship of a highly organized business with his best friend, Vince, who is the money guy. The two of them pretty much have control of the school and help people with all kinds of problems - whether it be bullies, dating, homework, or loans - Mac has what kids need. He takes payment or favors for his work. The payment is being saved up so Mac and Vince can go see the Chicago Cubs play in the World Series - if they can make it there. He has an internal network throughout the different levels of the school hierarchy who help him do what he needs - for a small fee. He thinks he has it all under control, until the day Fred walks in with a problem to solve that changes it all for Mac. Someone is infringing on his territory. Now he has to figure out how to solve the illegal gambling ring problem Staples has brought to his school.

This book has a full cast of characters who are each entertaining in their own right. As much as I adored Mac, some of his helpers (I'm looking at you M) were laugh-out-loud funny. The way that Mac runs his business is somewhat mobster-style and is impressive as such a well-oiled machine. Mac's voice is also greatly engaging in this book. It's written as if he's talking right to the reader with asides and side notes. It's like hearing a story from a good friend (almost Ferris Buehler style). Chris throws in some great similes that bring more character to the story overall. The one aspect I was a little concerned about was the slight glorification of the school bullies. There is a whole range of types of bullies in his school and Mac (humorously describing them all) uses them to do his dirty work. He pays them to be his muscle and while they have his back in the end, I worry if it puts them in too good of a light. I do think, though, that because of the humor and tone of the book, and the way they help protect Mac in the end, that it overall has a positive message about sticking together and standing up for oneself. The book also deals with friendship and trust and honesty between friends Mac and Vince. There's action and mystery and scheming and humor and friendship. It's a great middle-grades book to recommend to boys that should engage them in reading.
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02/15/2011 page 28
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