BLAGDEN , Scott. Dear Life, You Suck. 320p. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-90431-3.
Gr 9 Up–In present-day Maine, Cricket Cherpin is the oldest resident at the Naskeag Home for Boys. Since he arrived at age 10 with a scar in the shape of an “X” marring one side of his face, he has been both trouble to the nuns who raise him and a godsend to the Little Ones who look up to him. Taught to box by the caretaker of the property, Cricket protects the younger kids from bullies, one school-yard fight at a time. But it comes at a cost. He is one fight away from expulsion and eight months away from his 18th birthday. His request to remain a boarder at the home is denied, and Cricket must decide where he will go when the nuns can no longer protect him. The way he sees it, he has three options: go from collecting fees for a drug dealer to dealing himself, take Caretaker’s advice and box for real, or choose the easy way out and end his life. Throughout this first novel, Cricket evolves from an angry young man into the role model the younger boys believe him to be. His internal dialogue evolves as well. The beginning pages are wrought with sarcasm and teen speak that will likely be as difficult for some teen readers to decipher as it is for adults. However, as the character changes, so does the writing.This is a truly original work, and fans of Sherman Alexie may find a new favorite in Blagden.–Jennifer Furuyama, Pendleton Public Library, OR