Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review of Fat Boy vs the Cheeleaders by Geoff Herbach

Herback, Geoff.  Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders.  Sourcebooks Fire, 2014.

Sixteen-year-old Gabe “Chunk” Johnson lives in Minnekota, MN with his controlling dad and former body-builder grandpa, who moved in after Gabe’s mom ran off with an architect to Japan.  Gabe’s favorite thing about school is playing the trombone in the Minnekota Lake Area High School Band.  Every day he buys multiple bottles of Code Red Mountain Dew from the school’s soda machine because he thinks the proceeds are funding summer marching band camp.  Unfortunately, Gabe’s soda habit, lack of exercise, and his dad’s junk food purchases have caused him to gain a lot of weight.

One day, Gabe notices that the prices on the soda machine have increased.  He finds out later that the proceeds are now going to the school’s voluptuous new dance coach and dance squad, formerly the cheerleaders, instead of the band.  Consequently, band camp is cancelled for lack of funding.  The band director flips out and does some crazy things and is dismissed by the school board.  Helped by his friend and coworkers, RCIII, Chandra Gore, other band members, and band alumni, Gabe declares war on the cheerleaders and leads a rebellion to regain control of the soda machine and reinstatement of the band director.

Along with his cause, Gabe also gains a girlfriend, gets help shaping up and eating right from his grandpa, and helps the school acquire funding for the summer marching camp.

This book is extremely character-driven.  There are a lot of stereotypes in this humorous novel, and Geoff Herbach destroys some of them.  RCIII, for instance, is a black, talented athlete, but he enjoys hanging out with the band students!  The Goth girl, Chandra “Gore” Wettinger, is actually very nice and sensitive, contrary to what other students think about her and her past.

I can totally relate to this story because I was in band beginning in seventh grade and continuing all through college.  I also have three band directors in my family, so I understand the funding issues bands deal with.  Gabe is such a loyal, hardworking band member, and he thinks his director is pretty cool.  He epitomizes the typical band student and loves music.

I loved Gabe’s grandpa.  He inspires Gabe and sticks by him; he is a great positive role model.  He cheers Gabe, lifts him up, and supports his weight loss and fitness attempts.  He gives him advice because Gabe’s father is still trying to overcome rejection from his ex-wife.

Readers looking for a humorous read will enjoy this story.  It is refreshing and delightful to see and such an underdog become a hero!  I recommend this book for eighth grade readers and high school  and public libraries.  I give it four out of five fleur de lis!

Reviewer's Note:  The copy reviewed was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.