Feb 20, 09
Read in February, 2008
Don Schmidt has spent much of his young life trying to live up to the standards his parents set while his extremely talented deceased sister Dawn was alive. Don finds his niche in chicken judging- hardly as impressive as Dawn's dancing skills but enough to bring him some notariaty and an escape from a hostile home environment. After winning a major contest Don slowly gains the respect of his uptight mother and peers, only to stumble upon the roots of a massive family secret that seemed to be tearing his parents apart.
This is a very lukewarm book. The plot is pretty simple and in the end very predictable, but the characters are very well developed. In fact, the author puts so much into developing them (especially Don and his mother) that it seems like the plot itself is rushed. Despite being predictable, I did enjoy the book moderately and was somewhat excited towards the end as the plot really got rolling. Unfortunately, it does not feel fully resolved at the conclusion.
The quote from Jack Gantos on the cover compares Don to Napoleon Dynamite, and this is quite accurate. Sadly, I don't think that this sort of awkward character appeal transfers as well into print as it did on the big screen, as I can't see many teen readers readily identifying with the protagonist.
My bottom line: this is more appealing to adults with patience enough to get into the storyline than YA readers.