Monday, November 19, 2012

THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING UP by Alan Lawrence Sitomer (Putnam, 2011)

Book Blurb, jacket copy: Thirteen-year-old Bobby Connor is a normal adolescent boy - at least he hopes he is - just trying to survive middle school. But it seems he's being foiled at every turn, and even his own body is conspiring against him. And when his math teacher is seriously injured from the shock and fright of witnessing just how out of control Bobby's changing adolescent body is getting, he starts to worry he's anything but normal. Faced with expulsion from school for violating the student handbook code, Bobby opts for therapy - Correctional Erectional Therapy. It's official: Bobby Connor is not normal. But in this uproarious and heartfelt novel, he's going to do his darndest to make it seem that he is . . . or maybe just try to make it through middle school, puberty and a perpetually growing problem in his pants.

Caveat: If you're troubled by out-of-control testosterone, this is not the book for you. A quick scan of Goodread reviews shows a huge gender gap. By and large, women reviewers claimed that they found the the penis jokes tiresome; male reviewers were delighted. And the target audience in my household LOVED it (when he read it last year at 14). I was amazed to find him--a guy who is usually found staring at a screen--with his head stuck in an actual book all day long, and had to see for myself what was so entrancing.

So what is so entrancing? Sitomer's verbal dexterity reigns supreme. The VOICE just grabs you and won't let you go. You will never, I'm sure, find so many slang phrases for the male member. Yes, there are a whole bunch of unlikely (and often unlikable characters), and the thought that a middle schooler would be sent to "correctional erectional therapy" is absurd, but that is just part of the farcical fun. As Paul W. Hankins, a high school English teacher I follow on Twitter writes: "With NERD GIRLS and now THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING UP, Alan Sitomer is securing his place as a middle grade humor writer which will no doubt put him in a well-deserved place with authors like Lubar, Paulsen, and Sachar. Alan writes this one pretty true to the pre-adolescent/adolescent experience, complete with the anxiety that comes from within and the humor without."

About Alan Sitomer: "Alan Lawrence Sitomer is a nationally renowned speaker and was California’s Teacher of the Year in 2007. He is also the author of multiple works for young readers, including Nerd Girls, the Hoopster trilogy, The Secret Story of Sonia RodriguezCinder-Smella, and The Alan Sitomer BookJam.  He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughters." (Bianca Schulze, The Children's Book Review.)

Twitter: @alansitomer
Agent: Al Zuckerman at Writer's House



  1. Sounds interesting though it might not be for me. I love the cover and would definitely check it out based on that.

  2. Yes that is a fun cover! My son is 10 so I think he is might be a little young (?) but I would probably want to read this before him... in a couple years. Thanks for sharing Michael.

  3. I've seen this book on the bookstore's shelves. Haha, yes, this is not something I would pick up for myself. But I think my sons would have enjoyed a book like this a few years ago. It's an awkward time in a boys' life and even more awkward for Mom to talk to them about it!

  4. I'm so glad I finally know what this is ABOUT! I recall reading the title, and thinking, what do they mean? Being up how? As in, waking up? Being . . . high? Or just up on life? Now I get it. And it makes me laugh. Thanks for the review!

  5. You know what? Yay for middle grade books aimed at boys and for addressing this awkward hormonal time in such a candid way. I remember some parents wanting to take Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian off the shelves because he mentions masterbating and I'm sure there will be those (gasp) horrified by this. Forget them and good for you, Sitomer. I'm sure males of all ages will love this book as my 50-year-old husband informs me, "farts and penis jokes are always funny."

    P.S. I read your success story on Miss Snark's First Victim's blog. Sounds like an exciting time was had.:-)


  6. What a great cover! This sounds like a good boy book.

    I think that sums it up. ;)
    Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

  8. I am definitely curious about this one! It sound funny!


  9. Just can't bring myself to have it in my school library. Perhaps if Surly Teen Boy had found it more interesting. Nah. would be creepy to have your school librarian give this to you. Our public library does have a copy.


Youse got something to say? Well, say it then. (The Don and I will shoot you... a personal reply, that is. But if we can't find your e-mail, we'll just reply in the comment box.)