Small Review's Reviews > The Fourth Stall Part II

The Fourth Stall Part II by Chris Rylander
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Feb 07, 12

bookshelves: g-contemp, pages-200s, published-2012, library-own
Read from January 13 to 18, 2012

Originally posted at Small Review.
This is a review for a sequel, but there are NO spoilers for the first book!
Still worried? Check out my review of the first book instead!



Mac had me at hello

Mac's "voice" is a combination of The Godfather, film noir, and contemporary middle school boy that blends perfectly. Mac is such a likable kid. He makes me laugh and even when he's doing less-than-moral things, I'm still rooting for him to win (plus, his heart is in the right place, so that has to count for something, right?).

If I were in middle school, I would be crushing on Mac so hard. I'm talking notebooks filled with "Mac <3's Small" and I-can't-form-words-in-his-presence-because-he's-so-cool kind of crush. And if I were a middle school guy? I would totally want to BE Mac.

I love male narrators, but it's hard to find a good male narrator who actually sounds like a guy (sorry women authors, lots of your guys sound like girls!). Chris Rylander scores major points by writing a book that feels authentically boyish.

Not only that, but he also sounds like a genuine middle school kid. He thinks and acts the way a normal kid would act, and sometimes that means he bungles in ways that are just so classically tweenish. This totally endeared him to me, and I imagine Mac's thoughts and actions will resonate strongly with the target audience (tweens, primarily tween boys).

These are the kinds of issues I like

I really don't like reading about Heavy Issues like people dying or struggling with abusive relationships or depression and stuff like that. But I love contemporary books that deal with the normal "lite issues" kids face like zits and crushes and school stress.

Chris Rylander integrated these subjects well in the first book, and he proved his skill again in the sequel. Mac's first crush on a girl is equal parts funny and sincere, with a few laugh out loud lines as he expresses his total bafflement with the opposite sex. The pressure of standardized testing provides a more serious topic, and offers an opening for candid discussion without coming across as preachy or dull.

I didn't see it coming!

I didn't see the culprit until their identity was finally revealed. The evidence was stacked up against each possible bad guy in such a way that I believed any of them were capable. But, the doubts were equally convincing, so I was totally twisted up.

Chris Rylander gets the Genius Award for Epic Characters

Mac is great, but so are all of the secondary characters. The prim and proper but totally crazy little bully named Kitten cracks me up every single time. He didn't even have a big role, but I mentally cheered whenever he was mentioned. Reading these books is worth it for the mental picture of that character alone (don't believe me? Check out Heather's review of the first book where she said almost the exact same thing!).

Really, almost all of Chris Rylander's characters are memorable and awesome for some reason or another. Extra points for Mac's trusty right hand man Vince; Tyrell, Mac's surveillance man (SO cool!); and Trixie, Mac's crush and possible femme fatale. Even the opportunity to meet super minor characters like the weird rodent droppings expert make the book worth reading.

Where did the star go?

The wandering plot. I didn't think the mystery was built as cohesively as it was in the first book. The first book had great momentum, but it was very easy for me to put the sequel down for days at a time. I did want to see who was behind the problems plaguing Mac and his classmates, but clues came too few and far between to really grab hold of my interest.

There was also a LOT of baseball filler, and after years of associating baseball with boring weekends when my dad wouldn't let me watch my cartoons because there was a game on, I automatically revert into "this is boring" mode whenever baseball is brought up. I imagine the target audience will appreciate Mac's baseball nods more than I did. I did like the futile camaraderie Mac felt with other Cubs fans though--that I can understand.

Bottom line

I adore this series and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you have a middle grade boy in your life, do him a favor and buy him this series ASAP. The first book is a hot seller in my library and I already have a waiting list for the sequel.

What's also great about this series is that each book can be read as a standalone. Even though knowing the events of the first book helps when reading the second, that familiarity isn't necessary. There are also zero spoilers in the sequel, so you don't have to worry about ruining the first book if you read the sequel first.

The second book ends by alluding to a possible third book, and I SO HOPE THERE IS A THIRD BOOK! I'll auto-buy it.



Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key

Originally posted at Small Review.
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01/13/2012 page 83
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