Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This month’s book: Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick

San Lee is an 8th grader transferring into a new school in the middle of a semester, and, once again, he's the new kid in a new school in a new town. But he has the same old problems, only now they're worse than ever because his dad is in prison, and his mom is working constantly to try and support them. At every new school, San makes himself over to become someone who can fit in, but this time he says, "I was sick of pretending to be like everyone else --the artificial slang, the Internet research on sports I didn't care about, the endless watching of MTV so I could learn song lyrics, dance moves, cool clothing brands." Then, in the cafeteria on his first day, he meets a wild-haired girl who spends every lunch period singing and playing an old, beat-up guitar. Next, in social studies class (which he happens to have with the wild-haired girl, Woody), he just happens to know the answer to a question about Zen Buddhism, and his new identity as Buddha Boy is launched. Since he's the only Asian in the school, everyone takes his expertise for granted. So he rushes to the library after school to read up on Buddhism and begins to fake it. He gets paired up with Woody to do a project on Buddhism, and the time involved in their dual project of volunteering at a soup kitchen and learning how to shoot baskets the Zen way gets him into trouble with his mom, who suspects him of becoming a liar like his father. This is a very funny, heartfelt book by the author of some other terrific books: Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie, it’s sequel After Ever After and Notes from the Midnight Driver. Review by Stacy Church