Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Playing with Matches by Brian Katcher

A neutron walks into a bar and orders a beer….the bartender gives it to him and says, "For you, no charge..."
And so begins the life of Leon Sanders, junior at Zummer High School, whose architecture reminds him of an enormous bomb shelter or an insane asylum.

Leon’s always grown up as a nerd. He’s surrounded himself with sci-fi movies and figurines, and is probably the only one who checks books out of the library at high school. But his status has changed some. From uber nerd in junior high to being unknown in high school, Leon thinks of it as a step up. His group of friends consists of Samantha (a feminist); Rob (who always looks mad) and Johnny and Jimmy (two brothers who “get nostalgic over their greatest farts.) And then there’s the crush…
Amy is the toned cheerleader goddess Leon has always fantasized about ever since he was in the fourth grade. He watches her daily, but she never sees him and the only thing he can hope for is that she will one day look his way and see him. But until then….

School drones one with projects. In his history class, partners are picked and who does Leon end up with? None other than Melody Hannon, the girl whose status is even beneath the nerds. And why? Because of her severely scarred face, caused by a fire when she was four years old. Leon can’t believe his ill fortune but deals with the fact that once again, bad luck follows him.
But what once was just a school project turns into something else entirely, and one that Leon or Melody didn’t even expect. Their academic partnering turns to friendship, which slowly becomes romance – a first for both of them. The only thing Leon can’t get over is her face, but the more he is around her, the more he realizes what beauty is.

But never underestimate the powers of Leon Sanders, especially when it comes to the goddess called Amy. She takes a sudden interest in Leon and when this happens, the only thing he can compare it to is winning the lottery. So he dumps Melody and although he cares for her, she doesn’t matter as much as the lottery ticket with the grand prize - Amy. And things get truly bad for Leon Sanders….

What an AMAZING book!! Brian Katcher’s first YA novel truly packs a punch. The reader can’t help but laugh at Leon’s character and the way he sees the world, but also realizes that he is seriously playing with fire, and emotional fires can burn the hottest. The characters are solid creating the social cliques found in all high schools and the plot is believable and realistic. But it’s the theme that’s the gut-puncher…the motor that will drive this book into YA hands to be talked about and passed around. The ending was thought-provoking, leaving it into the hands of the reader to think about. Kudos to Katcher’s first novel!!

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