Monday, April 4, 2011

Review of The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander.  Walden Pond Press, 2011.

Best friends and sixth-graders Vince and Christian (aka Mac..from MacGuyver) have their own business giving advice and procuring items for fellow students. Their office is located in the fourth stall of an abandoned bathroom in the east wing at their grade school. Mac solves kids’ problems and Vince handles the money side of the business. They are both Chicago Cubs fans and are saving their money so that they can see the Cubs play if they make it to the World Series. The business is going great until they take on a third-grade client who needs protection from a legendary crime boss named Staples. Staples is running a gambling racket at the school, paying players to throw games, and charging enormous amounts of interest to his clients. Students who don’t pay up have their lives made miserable by Staples’s henchmen. In trying to put Staples out of business, Mac, Vince, and even the school bullies find out that they have taken on more than they bargained for!

The Fourth Stall has to be one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. In his debut novel for young adults, Chris Rylander has successfully given voice to some very likable and memorable characters. The story is written from the point of view of Mac, who is extremely resourceful when it comes to solving problems. His best friend, Vince, is wise in the ways of number crunching and comes up with some hilarious lines he steals from his eccentric grandmother. The author really seems to understand guys’ minds and their friendships. Mac even persuades the school bullies to help him take down Staples, who has previously just been a rumor around school. The description of the grade school bullies, which include biters and computer hackers, is extremely comical! Staples is portrayed as a really bad guy, and as quite controlling. He has high school and middle school students doing his dirty work, and they are tormenting the younger students. The plot is extremely believable, and it genuinely works!

Even though there are young characters in the book, this book can be enjoyed by older students. I highly recommend it for middle school, high school, and public libraries!