Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rebel McKenzie by Candice Ransom

rebel I was sold on this book from the very first line: “Convicts can spot a runaway right off the stick.” Then came: “I was trudging down Coolbrook Road, a big fat lie of a name if there ever was one. The brook was invisible, unless you counted the dried-up gulley running alongside.” Still, I was worried that Rebel McKenzie was going to be one of those clever books that just don’t go anywhere, the author too busy thinking of witty things to say to worry about things like plot and character. Then, Rebel was trying to convince the convict that she wasn’t running away: “’I’m out for a walk.’ ‘Wearin’ half your clothes? You look swolled up like a tick.’ It was true I had on seven pairs of underwear, four pairs of shorts, and five T-shirts…” By the way, the title of the chapter is “Never Wear Seven Pairs of Underpants.” Ok, I give. Rebel is running away to try to escape having to spend the summer living with her sister, who she hasn’t seen in 3 years, babysitting her nephew (that’s right, nephew –Rebel’s been an aunt since she was 5) instead of going to the Summer Ice Age Kids’ Dig and Safari in Saltville, Virginia. Rebel wants to be a paleontologist, and she can’t wait for a chance to excavate a woolly mammoth skeleton and stake her place in paleontology history. Instead, she’s living in Grandview Estates, which is really a trailer park (or mobile home community according to Rebel’s sister Lynette), taking care of Rudy, “a spindly-legged boy with cowlicky brown hair and a narrow, ferret face….He put me in mind of one of those plants that grow under rocks” while her sister goes to beauty school. There are some other great characters: Doublewide, the cat who knows how to pee in the toilet, Lacey Jane, who’s been tormenting Rudy, and Bambi Lovering, a young beauty-queen-in-the-making. When Rebel finds out there’s a beauty contest with a cash prize, she decides that winning the contest is her only chance of having enough money to go to the Ice Age Kids’ Dig. The story just gallops along from that point on, with Rebel bulldozing her way past every obstacle (not the least of which is that her idea of talent is being able to burp the names of the 13 colonies). Rebel McKenzie is a great read –clever, and with a great plot and funny characters. Review by Stacy Church

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