Review- The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander

A couple of months ago, I was given a box of unreleased proofs from a library supplier to read and review before buying for our library system. I immediately picked up the book ‘ The Fourth Stall’. I loved the cover and think it will be really visually appealing to boys. In fact, the entire book would be appealing to boys– the storyline, characters, language and humour. The Fourth Stall is definitely a title I would recommend to reluctant pre-teen readers ages 9-12 years old.

So what’s it about?

Sixth graders Mac and Vince are business savvy best friends who run a successful business from their school’s east wing boy’s bathroom– fourth stall. For years, they have used their connections to help schoolmates get everything from loans to protection from bullies. They face their biggest challenge when third-grader Fred claims that he is being threatened by the legendary dropout and crime boss Staples. After hiring their bully clan and strategically planning their take down, Mac and Vince also find themselves unexpectedly affected by deeper issues like class.   

What I liked:

–          I loved the description and traits of the bully clan–each bully is known for a specific strength. For example, Snapper’s signature move ‘is a bite so hard it would snap a man clean in half if her mouth were big enough’. Rylander also includes a new form of bully that is becoming increasingly popular in our technology driven world—‘Ibully’. Ibully is a cyberbully who hacks e-mail and Facebook accounts.

–          Rylander’s writing: smart, witty. Multiple issues are thrown into the novel, but it always seems to work!

–          Rylander’s ability to make the reader emphathize with a bully even though you’ve detested the character throughout the novel. In the end, we find out why he was the way he was (and although it doesn’t excuse his behaviour, we can sort of understand why).

What I didn’t like:

–          The amount of violence in the book. Sometimes I had to remind myself that Mac is in the sixth grade. It’s like the Sopranos for the younger set, and I’m not sure the extent of the violence was necessary.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Here is an original – a story that really gets how guys are pals.  It’s also a story about sixth grade wiseguys that is funny, mysterious, and true to the heart of what really matters when you are in middle school.  Do yourself a favor.  Read it.  Now.”  – Jon Scieszka (National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and NYT Best-Selling author of THE TRUE STORY OF THE 3 LITTLE PIGS and THE STINKY CHEESE MAN AND OTHER FAIRLY STUPID TALES)
Debut novelist Rylander mines a substantial amount of humor and heart from this combination hard-boiled crime novel and middle-grade character piece.”  – Publishers Weekly

Look for The Fourth Stall in February 2011!

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