Monday, September 12, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Born Too Short

Born Too Short: The Confessions of an Eighth Grade Basket Case by Dan Elish (Atheneum, 2002)

What caught my eye first: The title. And man, who wasn't a basket case in 8th grade?!

The story (thanks to Amazon's copywriters):
What do you do if your best friend is Keith Livingston? Keith -- who practically needs a chart to keep track of his babes. Keith -- the stud/athlete/Adonis of Hannaford School in New York City.
Well, for starters, if you're like Matt Greene, a 5'1" nerd who has never made out, you suffer.
When Keith's eighth-grade musical, Star Crossed, is a smash, Matt can't take it anymore. Blowing off steam on the corner of Eighty-first Street and Columbus, he wishes his buddy's life would fall completely apart.
Sound serious? As Matt's story shows, the insane, gut-wrenching jealousy of a non-stud/non-athlete/non-Adonis basket case can be wildly funny.

Wonderful thing about this book: Elish does a great job with teen-speak. Also, I totally believed the feelings of jealousy Matt had for his best friend, Keith. After all, Matt wants to have all the girls adoring him. But with Keith around, it's not going to happen.

Caveat: I prefer my middle grade on the "upper/tween" side, and this one certainly fits the bill. Personally, I'm not a prude, and I know that teens are getting up to some devious stuff, but it might concern some readers that Matt drinks a couple of beers at a party (without too much of a consequence, I might add--the kid doesn't even seem to have much of a hangover), and that there are a couple of references to things like "whacking off" and other sexual stuff. I'd say this would be a good one for 7th-8th graders, and it wouldn't be a bad thing to read it with your child and use it to discuss views on teen drinking and sex.
If you want to learn more about Dan Elish, here's his website. He sounds like a multi-talented sort of fellow.

(I'll be making a mid-week announcement about a very exciting MMGM for next Monday--so keep your Google Reader in top working order!)


  1. Personally I think books that ignore the truth about young people's lives (that they experiment - sexually and with substances) are dishonest. I'm not saying I want books full of masturbation, joints, and beer, but I don't want it glossed over, either.

    Great review, thanks, Mike!

  2. I love the title. It's a problem middle grade guys can definitely relate too I'm sure. And I prefer upper tween books too.

  3. What Matt said.

    Excellent review. I've never heard of this one. There just aren't enough good guy books for this age, so thanks for the recommendation!

    (Oooh, enticing teaser about next week's MMGM. Hope it's a giveaway. Is it Wonderstruck??? I'm guessing not; that book's so heavy it would cost you a bundle to mail!)

  4. Great review, Michael! I appreciate the caveat. Though I don't avoid books with those issues, it's still nice to have a heads-up! :-)

  5. Adding this to my to reads-and thanks for the caveat, not a concern for me, but you are absolutely right that it could be! And now... I wait for your next MMGM!

  6. Being real with kids - where they are - is so important. And what a chance for parents and teens/tweens to discuss some of these issues (if read together or separately and then talked about). Very thorough review! Thank you.

  7. Sounds good for the near future around here...


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