Friday, November 14, 2014
Book Review: Dodgeball High
3 Stars - Recommended to fans of bizarre high school rituals and rowdy-ass teen know-it-alls
Publisher: Eraserhead Press
Released: October 2014
As a kid who moved around a bit during my middle-to-high school years, I know a thing or two about being the "new kid". I also know that being new is an awesome opportunity for the extroverted teenager to completely reinvent themselves - in my case, over and over and over again. No one knew who you were. And you could be whatever or whoever you wanted. Z Cavaricci's and permed 'do not working out so hot? That's ok. When you move to a new school district next year you can totally trade them in for the skater-grrl look - long straight hair, stove pipe jeans, and chucks. Hanging with the jocks and straight-edger's a little too boring for you? Cool, this time I'mma hang with the theater crew and hippies. I can blend in or stand out. And no one's the wiser.
Too bad that's not the case for Justin Lucas - the self proclaimed most handsome, nicest, smartest, most athletic, funniest, coolest kid on the planet. Foul mouthed and blessed with a mustache that'll make Tom Selleck cry, Justin's prepared to make the students of Lungville High take notice of his awesomeness. Except, well, wait. Why isn't anyone taking any notice? And why, all of sudden, is he getting whipped in the face by dodgeballs? As he cowers behind his desk in homeroom, plotting revenge - while stealing glances at some of the girls' derrieres while he's down there because hey, why not - and as he moves on to first period, "The History of Dodgeball", and definitely by second period, "Psychology of Dodgeball", it begins to dawn on Justin that Lungville High is not your typical high school.
Enter the bizarre world Bradley Sands has created. A world in which a school exists whose sole curriculum revolves entirely around the sport of dodgeball. One where the rules as you know it are bent, broken, and mangled beyond recognition. One where the student groups - Stunt Team, Model UN, even Math for crissakes - are actually dodgeball groups, and where gym class can be straight-up deadly. No, seriously. Dodgeball death-matches are a thing. Dodgeballs wrapped in barbed wire, dodgeballs stuffed with explosives, you name it, Bradley Sands has thought of it... and if you don't play well, you can forget about going home, ever. Because you'll be dead. Because you'll have gotten hit in the throat with a razorblade dodgeball that practically decapitated you, and your teammates will all be slipping and sliding in your escaping lifeforce as you lie there on the gymnasium floor bleeding out. Oh, this shit just got real, yo.
In the midst of all the madness, Sands has created one of the most obnoxious, self centered characters I've ever had the displeasure of reading, ever. Like, ever ever. Through Justin, he portrays every ego-driven, nothing-but-sex-minded, laugh-at-my-own-jokes, awkward teenage boy I knew in high school, while continuously feeding the story line with just the right amount of WTF-ery. A goth chick who takes Justin on a date to a restaurant that only serves steak, and not only do they walk the cow you'll be eating right over to your table, but they also slaughter and cut it up right there in front of you! A detention room that is only accessible through the floor in a stall in the girls' bathroom! And past year valedictorians stored in the basement of the school in blocks of ice?!
You've got to have a wicked sense of humor for this one, and a super forgiving sense of reality, although when compared to the other Eraserhead Press books I've read, this one's mighty tame. The gore factor is a two or three. It's really lightweight, nothing to lose your lunch over. The goofball factor is at least triple that, and the "he did not just take it there, did he?" factor is through the roof. Whatever you think is going to happen? Yeah. Just forget it. You'll never see where Sands is taking this thing. Of this, I am certain.
Read this book, not as an intro to bizarro fiction (because I really don't think it's a good example of the genre), but as a gateway to another dimension. One that looks like this one, and seems like this one, until the homeroom bell rings. Then all bets, and some of the students' clothing, and definitely some major body parts and a huge portion of your sanity, are off.