Author: Crystal Allen
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication date: February 22, 2011
Hardcover: 288 pages
Thirteen-year-old Lamar Washington is the maddest, baddest, most spectacular bowler ever at Striker’s Bowling Paradise. But while Lamar’s a whiz at rolling strikes, he always strikes out with girls. And Lamar’s brother, Xavier the Basketball Savior, is no help. Xavier earns trophy after trophy on the basketball court and soaks up all of Dad’s attention, leaving no room in the house for Lamar’s problems.
So Lamar starts hustling at the local alley with bad boy Billy Jenks. When one of their schemes goes awry, Lamar ends up ruining his brother’s shot at college and wreaking havoc on every relationship in his life. Can Lamar figure out how to mend his broken ties, no matter what the cost?
From debut author Crystal Allen comes an unforgettable, laugh-out-loud story of one boy’s struggle to win his family’s admiration and get the girl of his dreams, all while playing the sport he loves.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Bought.
Why did I read this book: Because I read some pretty good reviews including a starred one on Publishers Weekly.
13 year old Lamar is the self-proclaimed maddest, baddest, most spectacular bowler EVER at Striker’s Bowling Paradise. Lamar’s summer is about to start and with it the promise of fame (he is super awesome at bowling after all), fortune (with a sweet new “job”) and luuurve (it is about find to get a super fine honey). Not to mention that his bowling idol Bubba Sanders is going to make an appearance at his favourite bowling place to judge a writing competition, whose winner will get a special bowling ball. Will Lamar’s summer be everything that he dreamed of?
Of course not. Unfortunately for our protagonist, things don’t exactly go as planned. His reputation as a prankster and a womaniser are preventing him from scoring a girlfriend not to mention that his propensity to trash talk is not exactly endearing. His choice of a summer “job” is to agree to join a hustling scheme with the disreputable Billy Jenks which doesn’t go that well in the end in addition to becoming a matter of contention between him and his best friend Sergio, plus the consequences of that land him in a world of trouble with his father, the authorities and his new girlfriend.
Let me say right off the bat that Lamar’s funny, cocky narrative is probably its most appealing trait but one which could easily backfire for the very same reason and put readers off to start with. Even I, who loved it, felt at times it was extremely cringe worthy especially with the use of what sounded like really dated slangs (the use of “honey” for girls for example).
BUT I do say to “start with” for a reason because there is a learning curve that Lamar undergoes and his arc provides him with some well-deserved revelations – in particular when it comes to girls. Having said that, it is great to see a character that is so self-confidence when it comes to something that he truly loves and is good at: bowling.
If his self-confidence is completely justified in that arena, his cockiness when it comes to everything else isn’t and to learn that difference it is also part of the storyline. Because beneath all that extreme bragging and self-confidence lies a boy with a myriad of problems and some of his self-confidence is nothing but a façade behind which to hide those. For Lamar may be a bowling star but he is also a young boy who misses a mother who died of cancer; a boy whose father is struggling to make ends meet and who does not have the same effortless way of dealing with problems that his late wife had; a boy older brother is a basketball star, who doesn’t see bowling as a worthy sport and who constantly abuse and bully Lamar. He is also someone who had a strong case of asthma, whose doctors will not let him play any sport whatsoever. His determination to succeed at bowling is part brought by true love for the game but also so that he can too, have a trophy on the fireplace. His spot there is secured by a note from his mother and I can’t begin to express how every single scene involving that note is both freaking heartbreaking and heartwarming. He also makes mistakes – and serious ones and dealing with the consequences of those mistakes is what takes over the story half-way through.
How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy is a great little book. It is funny and fun but also a bit sad. It is extremely moving too, especially when it comes to the relationships between Lamar and his family, friends and girlfriend. Not to mention the diversity: Lamar is African American, his best friend is Latino and this diversity is a non-issue, it simply is. Plus, the book gets a brownie point for the Best Use Of “Google” As A Verb with “I google my memory”. Awesome.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
Even though I’m an awesome bowler, Sergio tries to chump me about being thirteen years old and still girlfriendless. Every day I stare in the mirror, groom my fro, and proclaim today as the end of my dry spell. I point my comb at the mirror. “You’re a superfine, hot-blooded power line, and today, one lucky girl will win the Lamar lottery”.
Rating: 7 – Very Good
Reading Next: Blackout by Connie Willis (which I finished just now, and holy shit, I need All Clear IMMEDIATELY.)