I've been hooked on books since childhood, and still am. I usually have at least three books going at any given time. After nearly two decades teaching middle school, I've developed strong opinions about YA fiction. A married mother of many adult children, and a practicing Catholic, my moral paradigms do play into my reviews.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, by Rick Yancy
Hmmmm. Not sure how I feel about this book. Parts of it I loved. Parts of it left me frustrated. The main character (title character) is likable, and I felt great sympathy for him as he struggled to find a purpose and a way to feel good about himself. I personally loved the overlay of deep Catholic prayer hinted at in the book, and I always like a good versus evil scenario, especially when the hero reluctantly discovers that he is more courageous than he himself thought.
I think my male students will be drawn to this book. Who can resist sword fights and mystical societies and secrets and the chance to drive four or five of the worlds coolest most expensive cars?
That said, parts of it felt gimmicky: "Oh, time to ditch the Porsche and find a Lamborghini, so I better write a wreck or some sort of problem into the story so the characters can get a new cool car....." This was distracting to me. In addition, I am getting weary with YA fiction that allows the hero or heroine to suddenly discover that they are unique and chosen and special in some out of this world way. Think Harry Potter, and the whole Percy Jackson series, and about half of the books being written for teens right now. Why can't they be heroic and special just the way they are? I know, I know, this thrills young people, so of course it keeps getting written.
The author is great at characterization: I could SEE the gum-smacking Mike Arnold, I could HEAR the patient and unruffled voice of Benaccio. The only character who developed and changed at all was our title character, but since it is written in first person, that was OK.
On the whole I will give this a thumbs up. It's rollicking fun, if not fine classic literature. And it is going in my 8th grade class library