Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Fourth Stall: A Magnificent Middle Grade Series

Mac (whose real name is Christian but has been nicknamed MacGyver for his ability to solve problems) is the sixth grade equivalent to “The Godfather”.  His office is set up in the fourth stall next to the high window of the boys’ bathroom in the East Wing of his middle school.  There is no toilet there any longer (due to an unfortunate prank a long time ago that resulted in the principal getting crazy glued to the toilet seat), and is in a part of the school that hasn’t got any classrooms, so nobody ever comes in there except for his clients, who are usually other kids from the school. These “clients” come to Mac whenever they have a problem, and for a reasonable fee, (and/or sometimes a favour) Mac will solve it. He’s got connections everywhere, and a network of other kids he calls on to get the job done. Vince, his best friend and business partner keeps the books, Joe is the muscle, and Tyrell is surveillance. (And his camouflage techniques would put the best private eyes to shame)  What do they do with the money? For the last four years they’ve been saving their earnings to buy tickets to see the Chicago Cubs play in the World Series, and it seems like this year might be the one, so making money is more important than ever. Business is booming until one particular Monday when trouble walks into their office, and this time it may be more than even Mac can handle. 

II   In book 2, a new problem lands on Mac's desk in the form of an eighth grade girl. She claims that a teacher in the school is unjustly giving her detention, and wants Mac to do something about it. But that's not the only problem that Mac has to solve. The new No-Nonsense Vice Principal is on Mac's tail, the school is being forced to take an impossibly difficult standardized test, and the cafeteria is serving ridiculously unhealthy lunches. Strange things are happening in the school, and Mac's determined to get to the bottom of it before it's too late! 

     This new middle grade crime series is clever, funny, and refreshingly original. Drawing inspiration from "The Godfather", boys will eat this up. Author Chris Rylander completely gets what Middle School is all about, and more importantly, he gets boys.  Mac is cool, confident and popular, and boys will want to be him. He's flawed, but not a jerk, and he's easy to like and easy to forgive when he screws up. The cast of bullies that Mac occasionally uses as hired hands are completely over the top and hilarious, (Come on-a bully named "Kitten"?)  and the villains are completely villainous. 

I     The writing is intelligent, the plots move at a rapid pace, and they are filled with suspense, crazy characters, and several laugh-out-loud moments. I read the first chapter out loud to my non-book-loving boyfriend, and he was laughing so hard he had tears coming out of his eyes! Being a die-hard baseball fan myself, I also completely related to their eternal loyalty to the Cubs. Our Toronto team hasn't won a championship in nearly 20 years, but every year we continue to hold out hope that this season will be the one! Chris Rylander has also managed to incorporate some heavier issues such as bullying, poverty, and friendship without ever seeming heavy handed or preachy.

      From the moment I started reading I was completely hooked on this amazing new series. I gobbled up both books in succession, and I can't wait for book three to release next year.