"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Character, Driven by David Lubar

Character, Driven by David Lubar is a funny yet poignant coming-of-age tale where the narrator, Cliff, leads his readers on a romp through the male psyche. Right from the beginning we are not sure if he is a reliable narrator as he draws us immediately in with a scene where he is being beaten up by his dad and then pages later we discover  the abuse didn't happen, it was just a literary technique.  Often Cliff stops the narrative and addresses his readers, a technique not often used in literature. I found it disarming and oddly charming at the same time.  But even though Cliff let me peek into his life I still wasn't ready for the twist at the end of the book.

On the third page Cliff introduces himself this way,
Call me Cliff. The most voracious bookworms among you will instantly wonder whether I've offered this name as a reference to some fictional Clifford...I am not a a reflection or echo of someone you've already met. Cliff happens to be my name. But that doesn't mean it lacks metaphysical echoes...Think about it...cliff, precipice, edge. There you have it. I'm Cliff. Cliff Sparks. At the edge. On the verge. Dangling.
What a wonderful beginning to a powerful coming-of-age story.

David Lubar plays with his readers using all kinds of literary techniques. First take a look at the title: Character, Driven. It is an obvious play on the writing style "character-driven," as compared to "plot-driven" narratives. With the comma instead of the dash, we are led to understand that there is a character and he is driven, but we also suspect, correctly, that the novel will revolve around its characters and we will be a witness to their evolutions, decisions, and attitudes.

Cliff, as our narrator and the author of what we are reading uses word play, foreshadowing, and symbolism. When the plot twist comes he reminds us of all of these and what we probably missed along the way. Since I did miss them, I was glad for the help.

I would be remiss if I didn't remind you that this book is about (or by) a teenage boy, which should, by all right, carry a warning. The book jacket says, "[it is] told in an unadulterated, no-holds-barred teenage boy's voice; by turns honest and untruthful, sarcastic and sweet, inappropriate and hopeful. Boys will recognize themselves, and girls will be fascinated by this insight into the mind of a teenage boy." In other words, there is quite a bit of foul language and sex (or at least, sex thoughts.)

I really liked this book for several reasons. I think most teens appreciate authentic books even if the topic is tough. I do, too. Secondly, I am always looking for more boy books.  Books filled with funny, awkward, kind boys trying to navigate their way through their teen years. This book fit the bill on all those orders. Thirdly (is that a word?), I love the chapter titles. They made me think and laugh. Lastly, and I should have mentioned this before, Cliff has a few wonderful teachers. Often teachers get the shaft in teen novels. These teachers are thoughtful and helpful, one even gives Cliff novels to read because he wants to stretch Cliff's mind. I made a list of these books, more for myself than for you, but you are welcome to check out the list below.

Will I recommend this book to my students? You bet. Do I recommend it to you? Yes, definitely. Do I think this book has a chance at the Printz committee this year? Possibly. I hope so.

2017 Printz Award Contenders

15 / 35 books. 43% done!

Books Mr. Piccaro loaned to Cliff: Fahrenheit 451; The Things They Carried; Geek Love; Stranger in a Strange Land; Slaughterhouse-Five; The Name of the Rose; and a blank journal.


  1. "...girls will be fascinated by this insight into the mind of a teenage boy..."

    Heh. I can hear my co-blogger scoffing from hundreds of miles away. Sierra particularly loathes sex-obsessed, teen boy POVs. I, too, gravitate towards feminine voices, I must admit. I overwhelmingly read the work of female authors.

    However, it's important for teen boys to have books that they can enjoy and relate to. If Character, Driven fits the bill, then that's great.

    1. If you look at the library statistics, girls are much more likely to check out books but, when forced by a teacher, boys want adventure or funny stories. This one is funny and the narrator is male, another plus.

    2. I read the review and was about to comment and then saw your comment Ellen! YOU KNOW ME SO WELL.
      I'm glad there are more books out there that teen boys can relate to. I will pass on this one though :P. Great review Anne!

  2. I love David Lubar's books so I would read it just for that, but I really like the sound of Cliff. I'll be sure to order this one for my library.

  3. If well done, this kind of book can be excellent and offer both insights and recognition, especially for boy readers. I love how many different kinds of books I read about in my blog-reading sessions!


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