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.