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Young Adult – Fiction- Humor

This category applies to young adult titles that deal with humorous characters or plot lines.

Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

January 29, 2014

Little BrotherIn San Francisco, the Bay bridge is bombed by terrorists. Marcus Yallow, a senior who hacks security tech to skip school, gets caught with his friends by the Department of Homeland Security. They are detained as enemy combatants. Once released, Marcus learns that the city has become a police state: everyone is suspected of terrorism. He starts his own movement against the DHS through technology.

Doctorow’s lead was interesting: he starts with Marcus at his school and then progresses to Marcus skipping with his friends and going to the bridge. Then the bombing happens, and he gets caught by the DHS. I liked the lead, because it gave me time to get used to Marcus and Doctorow’s writing style, in an engaging way.

The theme that I found in Little Brother was about the government and our society: in the name of keeping us safe, the government can take away all of our rights. Also when we act scared and add security to make us safe, like cameras in classrooms and data-mining, the country just gets weaker and even more scared, especially when the safety measures don’t work.

I  thought that the theme of Little Brother is even more relevant now, with the NSA phone tapping and data collection. Doctorow wrote in 2008 about a dystopian world, but now, in 2014, his story of San Francisco is scarily close to the real world—only the NSA surveillance wasn’t as apparent to us, and Marcus Yallow is like a younger Edward Snowden.

I rated this book a ten. From the very beginning it was funny, but it also conveyed world issues in a realistic sense. I loved the use of encryptions and technology by Marcus, as well as facts: say one in a million people has a certain disease, and you have a 99% accurate test. In a city of one million, the test will falsely identify 9,999 people as infected with the disease, while correctly identifying one person. This is called a false positive: the 99% accurate test functions with a 99.99% inaccuracy rate.

A funny blend of history, tech, math, and politics, Little Brother is an essential novel for any young adult reader.


Tor Teen, 416 pages.

I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want To Be Your Class President, by Josh Lieb

May 2, 2010

geniusJosh Lieb, the author of I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President, is an Emmy-winning executive producer of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” He has also worked on such shows as “The Simpsons” and “News Radio.”  You would expect if he wrote a book it would be hilarious and funny, which is exactly what he has done with his first novel, I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President.

This novel is about a boy named Oliver Watson who is in seventh grade and is obese.  His best-kept secret is that he actually is a genius of unspeakable evil who wants utter world domination.  Oliver’s dad, a.k.a Daddy, who hates that name, has never seemed to like Oliver.  For example, when Oliver was a baby, Daddy said to a friend, “And his forehead is huge.  Plus, his nose is almost nonexistent—just a flat spot in the middle of his face.”  On the day when news gets around the dinner table that Oliver has been nominated for class president, but turned it down, Daddy gives no impression of being proud or happy.  So Oliver uses blackmail, force, and lies to prove to his dad that he can win the class presidency and wipe that frown right off Daddy’s face.

The title is true because under all of Oliver’s fat and playing dumb is a secret empire, built right under his bedroom, where he rules the world, conducts experiments, sends his teacher Mr. Moorhead mysterious notes, blackmails, and buys and sells companies and stocks.  In school, he has a hidden built-in movie theater in a private bathroom stall, his own den with a butler concealed behind a set of lockers, video cameras all over the school, and a water fountain that, if pressed it in a certain, secret spot, provides root beer and chocolate milk.

I rated this book a ten because, number one.  I loved the humor.  It was great because Oliver doesn’t really tell jokes; he tells the truth, in hilarious ways.  For example, here’s a quote from the book: “Mr. Moorhead considers himself a cool teacher.  That means he still wears the clothes he wore in college. Unfortunately for Moorhead, college was ten years and twenty pounds ago.”

I also loved all the supporting characters because of their fears, their mistakes, or just being themselves.  Sheldrake, one of Oliver’s minions, is funny because he is always saying stuff that counters what Oliver wants.  When Oliver issues his latest demand, Sheldrake replies with “I’m not so sure about that” or “I don’t think we should do this.”

I thought the story was almost believable in some parts, but then I thought there is no way it could really happen—back and forth throughout the book.  I think the theme is that everybody needs love, even if he is a genius of unspeakable evil.  This novel is for anyone, fifth grade to eighth grade, boys or girls, who likes funny books.


Read more about this title at Amazon.com

The Year of Secret Assignments, by Jaclyn Moriarty

yosaI’ll admit that at first The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty appears similar to every other book out there for teenage girls:  a close-knit group of friends, a sarcastic narrative voice, and, of course, dream-boat boys who are nowhere near reality. But through her characters’ odd yet amusing quirks—such as hijacking teachers’ cars, molding chocolate into various means of transportation, and writing gruesome children’s books—Moriarty manages to give the novel originality, something lots of authors seem to lack nowadays.

The plot begins with a pen-pal exchange between two rival schools:  Brookfield High and Ashbury Academy.  The three friends—Emily, a future lawyer with a serious chocolate obsession, Lydia, a sarcastic daredevil, and Cassie, a shy singer—are paired up with three boys from Brookfield:  Charlie, a sweet guy with a knack for taking cars for joy rides, Sebastian, a charming troublemaker who has a sensitive artistic side, which is typical but still very cute, and Matthew, a mysterious and possibly crazy trumpeter.

After a rocky start, Emily helps Charlie charm the girl of his dreams, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what Moriarty is leading up to.  At the same, Seb and Lyd dare each other to complete hilarious and sometimes illegal pranks. Meanwhile, Cassie pours out her thoughts about her father’s untimely death, something she has never done before, to Matthew, who responds in violent and disturbing notes that made me wonder about his motives.

This is a modern-day epistolary novel, told through letters, journal entries, emails, transcripts, and spy reports.  I loved this.  It gave me a chance to hear all the characters’ voices, including those of supporting players.  This was definitely not a mistake, since they all had big personalities.  Moriarty brings to life a cast who is not only hilarious but also sweet, engaging, and genuinely smart.  Moriarty provides honest insights into friendship, family, and adolescence while making the reader laugh, something I loved.

Moriarty’s style of quirky and slightly random humor isn’t limited to The Year of Secret Assignments.  Her latest, The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, which is a companion to The Year of Secret Assignments, and her Feeling Sorry for Celia have the same lighthearted comedy.  The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie is filled with far-fetched but endearing characters that you can’t help but wish you knew, many of whom also appear in The Year of Secret Assignments.

This book has something for everyone: humor, unique but adorable relationships, and lovable characters who are sure to be remembered.  It’s perfect if you’re looking for a realistic book about friendship or just a good laugh.  I reread it again and again and loved it more each time.  It’s the type of book every adolescent secretly wants to live inside of.


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11 Birthdays, by Wendy Mass

May 26, 2009

11birthdaysAmanda is dreading her upcoming eleventh birthday. One year ago, she and her life-long friend, Leo, are suddenly not best friends anymore.  Amanda runs home distressed and angry from her and Leo’s joint tenth birthday party and is found on her front steps crying. That was the tenth of the eleven birthdays they have shared together as friends, and this will be Amanda’s first birthday party without him.  After not speaking to him for a year, she thinks she can handle it.

Her fears are right; it’s not such a great birthday after all. Her best friend betrays her; she struggles with terribly difficult test in class; her mother is fired from her job; and her sister thinks Amanda is up to no good. She can’t wait for the day to end to relax. But when she wakes up the morning after, her eleventh birthday happens all over again! The day repeats and repeats until Amanda and Leo are able to sort out their problems and be friends again. It turns out that Leo has some problems of his own too.

In this hilarious and touching adventure, Amanda becomes “unstuck” from re-living her Friday birthday with the help of a bus driver with a duck-shaped birthmark, her best friend, and by remembering clues from her past birthdays. There is more than one way to get to Saturday.

I rated this book a ten because as in most of Wendy Mass’s books (A Mango Shaped Space, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life), it has many thoughts and feelings of both the main character and other minor characters in the story. Anyone who enjoys fanciful mysteries and hilarious teen-issues books about friendship and loyalty will love this first-person-narrated book.  It is very detailed and has a lot of description on every page. Wendy Mass portrays Amanda as a funny, brave, future drummer for the school band, and not at all fond of gymnastics.


Publisher:  Scholastic, 272 pages

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