Plot:  Twelve-year-old Eugene Smalls is better described by his surname than by the nickname he insists people use: Huge.  Undersized and over-intelligent, he is a misfit in his small New Jersey town, which fuels his rage and leads to a reputation as the meanest and angriest kid there.  Summer vacation finds Huge lonely and unoccupied, so when his grandma, who introduced him to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, pays him to find out who vandalized the sign at her retirement home, he jumps at the chance.  In the course of his investigation, Huge learns much about himself and the other kids in his town.  


General thoughts:  Great character development.  Plot not as strong; moved slowly.  While there was a lot of humor in the book, Huge was too miserable for me to enjoy it much.  Also, there was a sexual aspect to his relationship with his older sister that was creepy. Though the book was well written, I did not enjoy it until maybe the last 50 pages, and that might have been because the end was in sight.

I felt the opposite--I thought the beginning was a lot stronger than the ending. I thought the ending had a manic "I Love You, Beth Cooper"  vibe. I didn't find the stuff with his sister creepy enough to turn me off, I thought it was just another way of showing Huge's frustation with every aspect of his life and not being able to articulate or respond the way that other kids can. I  thought that the author did an excellent job of describing a kid who honestly doesn't know where his rage comes from or how to control it. I found him very sympathetic and rooted for him the whole way. (KK)


3 words/phrases that describe this book: coming-of-age story; humorous but heart-wrenching

adolescent boys; 1980s; rage (KK)


This book is similar to: I cannot think of anything I've read with quite the feel of this book.  I saw a couple people on the internet comparing it to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but the two main characters had a very different feel to me.  Someone also compared it to The Sleeping Father, but I've not read that and can't comment. 

I agree with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It also reminded me of The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig--another young man struggling with emotional issues and impulse control. Maybe Three Girls and Their Brother or Catcher in the Rye.(KK)



Would I suggest/to whom:  I'm not sure to whom to recommend this.  There's humor, as I said, but it isn't a light read, since Huge is a pretty miserable guy.  Also, he's really angry, to the point of being sort of scary.  Readers objecting to coarse language or sexual situations would not enjoy this book.  I was surprised that they are looking to cross over into the YA market.  The sexual content and language would make it inappropriate for most middle school kids, but it would be hard to sell a high school student on a book featuring a sixth-grader.

It is a hard book to recommend. Like I said before, I found Huge to be sympathetic. He wanted to change, he wanted to make life easier for his mom and sister, he wanted to have friends, he was just wired differently than other kids. I think I'd be most inclined to recommend this to male readers of contemporary literary fiction. (Granted, not my biggest audience at the public library.) If it gets good buzz in mainstream media, I think it will recommend itself. (KK)


Would this be good for a book discussion?  Yes, there's a lot to talk about.

For the right group. I  think a lot of readers of "typical"  book group books may be put off by some of the same things that Susan expressed. I would also steer away from using it with groups who complain when they think a book is "unrealistic."  Huge's identifiction with 1940s PIs is a stretch. (No matter how lame the Hardy Boys are.) (KK)