Brian McSpadden is always hungry. Does he have a disease? Worms? Does it have something to do with his being adopted? He spends his days at his crazy friend Danny's house, hoping for snacks, but nothing seems to fill the void.
Then Brian receives a mysterious birthday card that says, Free Pizza. He soon discovers the card has nothing to do with food and everything to do with the big questions in his life: where did I come from, why did my mother give me up and is there anyone out there who will like me the way I am?
“My story is completely weird. It’s all about potatoes and snot and people falling out of trees. It’s about stamps and boobs and it even has a farmer from Alpha Centauri. […] My story has almost nothing to do with pizza, tragically. It’s mostly about me getting to meet my birth mom …” So begins the story of Brian McSpadden, whose birth mother makes contact with him on his twelfth birthday. His aunt gives him a strangely prophetic card saying Free Pizza, but it’s not what he was expecting. Neither is anything else, for that matter, as he spends the holidays pursuing crazy adventures with his friend Danny.
Our narrator has a great voice, full of irreverent humor and astute observations. He keeps the reader engrossed by foreshadowing events to come. The book is full of quirky characters. Unfortunately, I didn’t like any of them. Danny no redeeming qualities. Actually, neither does anyone else. The parents are all hopeless, the kids annoying and uncaring, and Danny’s mother is especially obnoxious. That I kept reading is a testament to the author’s writing. The book is a bit long for the target middle grade audience, with each scene being overly lengthy. Then, when the main story finally wraps up, we get nearly another year’s worth of story in just two chapters. There is just too much going on, in general. The author covers a range of heavy themes, including adoption, teen pregnancy, disability, stalking, bullying, home-schooling, hoarding, mental illness, embezzlement, robbery, breaking and entering, lying, assault, pedophilia, arson, foster care, and bad parenting. These are dealt with in a light-hearted manner and may serve as a starting point for conversations on these topics with your children. I understand the author has gone through numerous revisions of this book, which is semi-autobiographical. He might have been better off writing a number of shorter chapter books, each focusing on one topic.
Warnings: bad behavior by kids and adults alike.
I received this book in return for an honest review.
This is a good book portraying what many adolescence experience. It is, primarily, about a twelve-year-old boy and his friend and the mayhem they experience one summer. It is also about insecurities and "finding oneself". Brian has an additional challenge since he is adopted. However, this story strongly suggests each individual has issues each has to overcome. Brian receives a Free Pizza card on his birthday that is not free pizza at all. This is just one event in a very confusing, yet spectacular, time period surrounding his twelfth birthday. It is surely one he will remember! This story is well-written, with humor, action adventure and mystery included within iuts pages. However, I would not recommend it to those I am close to because of the occasional profanity, I feel, ruined it for older elementary and young adult reading. Although profanity is ramped in society, I feel it should not be encourage, especially among children. It is a poor use of literary content. The characters were developed well and the scenes were easily visualized. The Book Title and Cover were eye-catching. I offer a Three and a Half Stars rating. *This book was gifted me with no requirement for a positive review. This is my honest review.
This book took me back to when I was a youngster. Brought up a lot of fun memories and reminded of how the highs were high and the lows were low. All that excitement and angst.
The story revolves around twelve year old Brian and events leading up to when he receives a birthday card for a free pizza. It’s also about how he deals with his older parents who, after adopting him, later had two young boys of their own. He questions his connection with all of them and turns to his best friend for companionship, which lands him in a few pickles.
There’s plenty to make you chuckle and the book also has some depth to it. I was quickly caught up in it and had a really good time.
The only real glitch was the use of cuss words. I didn’t expect that in a middle grade book. Sure, our kids swear when they can get away with it. Just a word of caution to those that are sensitive about this in their kids reading material.
I’m glad I read Free Pizza and would be interested in other books by this author. The writing was strong, the characters were genuine and the scenes were very visual for me. Plus, I laughed out loud on more than one occasion.
I received a complimentary copy. My review is voluntarily given.
Centered on the life of a ten year old, Brian, Free Pizza takes you through the complex and often confusing emotions of growing up with your adoptive parents and step siblings. This was the story of an “atypical” family and with interesting dynamics among the characters. The adoptive parents aren’t “evil” or apathetic. Brian isn’t acting out or rebelling – his step-siblings are as normal towards him as you can expect out of five year old kids.
Yet, there is a sense of discontentment and a feeling of constant unmet expectations from Brian’s side. It is partly owing to the fact that his parents are much older in age. So he craves for a more “youthful” family setup and home life. It also doesn’t help that he knows he was adopted when the parents thought they couldn’t have biological kids.
A phone call one day leads him to slowly trying to connect with the family he never got a chance with. I liked how the book shows it isn’t all smooth sailing – the awkwardness, Brian’s initial disappointments that the moments he had been waiting for didn’t go as expected and his adoptive family’s attempt to adjust with the new circumstances.
Brian’s best friend, his family and their neighbor provide for the lighter moments in the story. Danny’s family life is chaotic, accident-prone, and the bustling household is a contrast to Brian’s staid one. I did enjoy all the subplots but felt it took away the focus from what the book was supposed to be about. I felt some characters, their families and backgrounds were meant for Brian to learn and introspect about how he was placed in his own life, but we never really got to hear anything from him or understand what he took away from those insights. There was one incident towards the end where a character’s actions made an impact on him and I wish we got more moments like that – where we could see the whole point of filling in so much of the book’s space with his friend’s and neighbors’ lives. I wanted to understand more about how Brian felt about his adoptive family – if it was always a sense of detachment or was there a lot more – some fondness, affection?
I thought the book needed more focus on Brian, his family, thoughts and attempts at connecting with his lost-and-found-again family. The ending was abrupt and we are left at a juncture where he is foisted with more people and information on him. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. He was barely able to connect with some recent events and new entrants into his life in the past weeks, so he being joyous and hopeful after being confronted with more of such unfamiliarity didn’t ring true to me.
The book was an easy, fun read though. While my primary issues were about how it didn’t feel very cohesive, the different subplots – in isolation – were quite entertaining. It was also a well-written account of happenings and perspective through the eyes of an eleven-year old protagonist.
Review copy provided by author as part of IRead book tours
I found this to be a well written book that explores what some kids may be experiencing in their lives. Brian is adopted, and while loved by his parents, he wonders how he fits into the family after his parents had two biological children. The parents never hid the fact from him which I appreciate. However, I did find it odd that his mother would conspire with his biological mother for them to meet when he was just twelve with no word to Brian asking if he would like to meet her, just "Hey Brian, your bio mom is calling tomorrow at 11 and you get to talk to her". Granted Brian wants to meet his biological mom and get to know her so that is a positive to the situation.
Brian has two younger brothers and one has a nose that consistently is running. The mom in this story is beyond frugal and I feel sorry for Brian not being able to have as much to eat as he needs. Thankfully the father steps in and tells her to feed the kids! The younger siblings can be a hoot but annoying at the same time for Brian, but that is the way it is in most families between siblings.
Brian and Danny are co-conspirators in normal adolescent behavior that somehow Brian gets blamed for or roped into situations that he was not an active participant. I did chuckle at some of the escapades such as Danny falling onto a greenhouse and the work they ended up doing for the neighbor that owned said greenhouse. There was a little bit of a mystery to the situation such as who really was this neighbor, what were his employees searching for, and who was the mystery woman Danny saw in the house?
This story covers a myriad of situations that a child or teenager might experience and would give them a character to relate to if they read this book. It might spur some conversations between parents and their children. There is mild profanity that I wish the book did not include. It seems like our children are becoming spewers of profanity at younger ages and I wish it was not included in their books.
Overall we give it 3 1/2 paws and think that this book could be good for a pre-teen trying to find himself and seeing what other kids his age are experiencing.
Free Pizza is a Humorous--Yet Real--Look at the Family and Life of a 12-Year-old. The author really did a great job telling this story from the viewpoint of a 12-year-old boy. There were a few times that some adult wisdom crept in--but, mostly the story captured the personality and antics of its characters perfectly. I enjoyed reading Brian's thoughts--and following his adventures and misadventures from beginning to end. At first, I thought the introduction of the main character's birth mother was downplayed too much--but, in reality, the character handled it all in a typical 12-year old stride. (I met my birth father when I was 13--and a couple of years of my life were spent adapting to what adults saw as a significant upheaval--but, I remember as only "the way things were." I remember navigating those problematic family times and those ups and downs right along with the usual, not-so-normal, daily ups and downs of my pre-teen/teen world.) I related well to Brian and enjoyed watching his story unfold.
McRae Keeps Readers Interested From Start to Finish. I settled into the story immediately. I loved the author's writing style and the pace of his story. He kept my interest in his larger plots and twists all while keeping me smiling and entertained by Brian's day to day activities. The author blended a little mystery, reality, humor and teen life to create a well-done story that flowed well from beginning to end. Free Pizza is an easy read that readers won't want to put down.
Would I recommend Free Pizza? I think this is an excellent read for older elementary aged students or middle school readers. There is some profanity--but, nothing more than the kids hear on the bus or in school hallways in a given day. All in all, it is an entertaining read that kids and adults will find relatable and easy to read. I would recommend it for both middle grades readers and parents--or for adults who like a clean story with a well-developed storyline and fun characters.
I received a copy of this book from the author or publisher for use in a blog review. All opinions are my own.
I have a tendency to read books based on their covers or titles and not what they are about. 99.9% of the time, I don’t read the excerpt so when I read a book, I have zero clue what I am reading.
In this case, not only did I have no clue what it was about; I apparently forgot (or didn’t know) it was considered a “middle-grade fiction”.
I have zero problems reading this genre. In fact, I enjoy it because I have two young readers at home. It’s nice to read a book that I can then pass onto them and then share our thoughts on a book we book we both read. (And that is exactly what I plan to do with this book.)
As an adult; the book was okay. I liked it. I didn’t love it, but I certainly did not dislike it. I liked it. It kept me reading; interested in what was going to happen. The book follows a young boy who lives with his adoptive parents and two brothers (who are not adopted), who spends most of his time with a friend who I am not sure I would consider a good role model as a parent.
As the story progresses, Brian and Danny find themselves in a little bit of trouble with the neighbor and with Danny’s cousin, Alvin, and Alvin’s situation. In addition to the trouble, Brian ends up meeting his birth mother which puts a whole other spin on the story.
The story led up to a great twist towards the end but the last 2-3 chapters were, in my personal opinion, excessive and not necessary. All in all, as an adult reading a middle-grade fiction story; it was a relatable middle-grade aged read.
As the mother of two young readers (ages 13 and 11), I really think they will enjoy the book. I really think my 11 year old son is going to enjoy it. The characters are in his age range so the point of view is more relevant to him and I can see the things that Brian and Danny do could be something my son would do.
I look forward to letting my kids read Free Pizza and hearing what they think about the book. I really do think it is a great book for the ‘middle-grade’ age range and forsee my kids enjoying it!
Brian McSpadden leads a pretty boring life. His parents are a little older and very strict. His mom spends most of her time taking care of Brian's younger brothers who seem to have constant issues and can never seem to feed Brian enough. This all changes around Brian's 12th birthday. First, Brian's chaotic friend Danny manges to get Brian in trouble even when he didn't do anything. Now, Brian and Danny are stuck doing chores for Danny's. Then, Brian receives a strange birthday present and a call from his adoption agency saying that his birth mother wants to get in touch with him for his birthday. In addition to finding a whole new family, Brian gets roped into the drama with Danny's extended family and his cousin Alvin. Will Brian be able to figure it all out?
Free Pizza is a charming, wholesome and amusing story about a very typical 12 year old boy. I immediately felt as if Brian could be any 12 year old boy that I had known, always hungry, trying to do his best, but somehow keeps getting in trouble. One of the things that I liked best in the book was that Brian was adopted, but that is not what the story centers around. Even though Brian should be focused on the momentous event of meeting his birth mother and discovering a whole other family, it takes a back seat to his own family and the craziness of Danny's family. There were elements of suspense and adventure tied in with Danny's neighbor, Grantree and an expensive stamp collection as well as Danny's sick aunt and having to find Alvin a place to stay. Between Brian's family, his birth mother's family and Danny's family, the fact that there is no normal is really highlighted. Each of these families are unique and a little crazy in their own way, but all of them share love and acceptance.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Even though my kids are grown now and I no longer read middle grade books, once in a while I get the itch to do so. Free Pizza was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed it immensely. The title is catchy too and has a double meaning.
Twelve-year-old Brian is an adopted child. When he gets the chance to meet his birth mother, he is nervous and very excited. It's summer and Brian is bored and always hungry. He is a growing boy and his mother is stingy with food (my Italian motherly instincts kicked in immediately and I felt frustrated every time he was hungry! I wanted to invite the kid over for lasagna.) Brian hangs around with his friend Danny and what an adventure that summer turns out to be. There was never a boring moment in this novel.
There are two things I loved about this book. The first is that the characters were very well developed and jumped off the page, and I mean all of them. They came across as real, flawed and distinct, making them memorable. The author skilfully portrayed them through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy. The second thing I loved is that there is a gamma of emotions that runs through this book. We get to laugh, cringe, and have our heart strings pulled throughout the story as Brian goes through a very emotional time in his life. Also, the author does not leave out the parents as a lot of MG books do. Instead this book is very much about family life: the good, the bad and the ugly. I loved the ending of this story.
G.C. McRae understands life with kids and does not shy away from laying it all bare and tackling serious issues. He's a talented Canadian author whose writing reminds me of the craziness of that of Robert Munsch's. I look forward to reading more of his works, and hopefully soon!
Note: There are no f-words but some religious expletives.
Free Pizza introduces me to G. C. McRae’s writing. It tells the story about Brian McSpadden, the adopted kid with two younger siblings and likes to eat…. a lot! What young boy who does not? He likes to hang out at his buddy Danny’s house. Which leads into a little bit of trouble for the pair. For his birthday, Brian received an unexpected card that says Free Pizza. With this card, he finds that his life will not be the same. I have to be honest; I was sure what to expect with this one. But I found myself amused and hooked within the first few pages. This quirky and fun book had me laughing from the start. I never knew where and what Brian was going to do next. Reading his tale with his family was so very funny. And that friend, Danny, of his? I never knew what those two would get into. I liked the little twist when the card comes and Brian finds answers to questions that he has wondered. He has to figure out where he belongs, what is important in life and how to be true to himself. I am giving Free Pizza four and a half stars. I thought it was a pretty good read that will keep the reader laughing out loud and, also, learn some very valuable life lessons. I recommend it. I would love to read more like this one by G. C. McRae in the future. I look forward to reading more by him. I received this book from the author. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
This cute, fun but full of emotions book introduces us to Brian. A young boy growing up with his adoptive parents and their two siblings. He struggles as any pre-teen would with this younger siblings – they drive him crazy. He struggles to find where he fits in with his family as he was adopted. He doesn’t feel close to them and struggles to find who he is. He is still learning right from wrong and is easily influenced by his closest friend in the world. The two together can get up to some pretty dangerous and adventurous acts!
His whole world changes when his birth mother is in contact with him. He so desperately wants to meet her and have her affection. He is full of questions and feels this may just be the void he needs to fill. This moment turns his whole family life upside down not only just his. We learn more about his adoptive father and mother, and we watch as they struggle with this new relationship growing.
This was a fun tale (Brian is still learning and can get up to some pretty crazy adventures with his best friend), not to mention the sibling love-hate relationships going on. But it also tells us a deeper story of how to we fit in, where do we belong and how do we figure this out. How do we remain true to ourselves during this transition – and how do we even know who we truly are. It is a great book for adults and young adults alike.
This book is full of laughter and chaos that kids normally do
My daughter supposed to read this book, but she is so busy with school and activities, so I read it for her. It is a fun book to read. It deals with family, chaos, craziness and laughter that make this book fun to read.
Danny, one of the main characters reminds me of my son who is addicted to play video games. Brian reminds me of one of my sons' friend. This book is a chaos but in a good way. It involves normal life with how kids can drive the parents crazy. It involves family problems and how to deal with it.
Adoption story is always a fun read for me. The moment that the adopted kid knew his real parents always gives me goosebumps. It always ends in a happy story. If you love to eat pizza and enjoy a fun book to read, this book is I recommend.
Life always involves chaos but if you handle it with laughter, life is even funnier.