Friday, October 9, 2015

The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds, 2015

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on Goodreads 
Atticus Hobart couldn't feel lower. He s in love with a girl who doesn't know he exists, he is the class bully's personal punching bag, and to top it all off, his dad has just left the family. Into this drama steps Mr. Looney, a 77-year-old substitute English teacher with uncanny insight and a most unconventional approach to teaching. But Atticus soon discovers there's more to Mr. Looney's methods than he'd first thought. And as Atticus begins to unlock the truths within his own name, he finds that his hyper-imagination can help him forge his own voice, and maybe just maybe discover that the power to face his problems was inside him all along.
(208 pages)

Hmm. This one looked a lot better in the description.

I mean, it looks good, doesn't it? The synopsis makes it look like a sort of mix between Dork Diaries (or whatever it's called - Diary of a Teenaged something, maybe? I don't read them, in case you couldn't tell) and the Terupt books (which I have read - and loved!). I always like a good coming-of-age story, and books about kids with crazy-but-super-effective teachers are kind of my secret addiction. So I snapped The Looney Experiment up when I saw it available for review - and now I'm wishing I hadn't.

Because for one thing, they swear too much. And fart too much. I get that Atticus and his classmates aren't little kids, but it's still a little excessive that they have to be using the A word all the time. And I can forgive some of the farting because Atticus' little brother is pretty young, but I still don't really enjoy reading about it. There's only so much family bonding over flatulence that I can stomach, okay?

And in a way The Looney Experiment is meaningful - after all, Atticus learns some very valuable lessons from Mr. Looney! - but it also felt pretty fake. I mean, we're basically told (and not shown) that Mr. Looney is this awesome teacher, but all he really does is really nutty antics that shock his students into thinking he could be someone cool. To be perfectly honest, I would probably have behaved more like Danny than like Atticus when they all made a conga line and danced around the classroom.

As for the girl - yikes! I feel bad, because I know that kitschy middle-school romances are part and parcel with reading MG these days, but I just couldn't really handle it. They're, like, twelve. I don't care if she's nice, she's still six years from reaching majority! When I was that age, I wasn't even thinking about romance, let alone crushing on guys or wanting to go out with them. Reading about Atticus' clumsy attachment to Audrey is cute in a way, but the whole thing just isn't handled well enough to keep me invested. I know it's possible for me to enjoy MG romances (just look at the Willow Falls books by Wendy Mass, or The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt - links go to my reviews), but there was nothing doing this time.

I just don't know. I don't know who I would give this to, or why, or when. It's got some great themes and messages, don't get me wrong, but there are so many other books out there that cover all of this same material in a more tasteful way (or at least in a way that's more to my taste). If it looks good to you, go for it - maybe it's more your cup of tea than it is mine. But I won't be recommending The Looney Project in the future, and I'm donating my copy to the local book swap.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review.

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