His dad, the "trouble shooter" who does nothing but reads the newspaper and says things like, "Go get 'im, sport!" or "Give 'em heck, son!" or "Seize the day, kiddo!" tells him to make friends with the biggest kid in class for protection. The biggest kid at this school is a kid named Huff, whom everybody calls- I kid you not- "Rough and Tough Huff." If I could zoom in to that a hundred times, I would.
Rough and Tough Huff.
I feel like M.D. Spenser doesn't quite understand the concept of middle school. For him, it's like trying to fit the square piece through the circle hole. No matter how much you try, it will just look messy, and also, the whole concept behind nicknames is that they shorten the name, or make it a little longer but cool-sounding, not add three words, one of which is a conjunction. Jesus, all I want to do is say the dude's name, not grade a freaking essay.
So, Huff and his gang of stereotypical followers gang up on Luke and decide to mess around a little bit. Huff pushes him around, and when he asks Luke what he was looking at, he said nothing. Whoops. Looks like Huff took offense, and he asked his followers what they thought of the situation from a neutral perspective. One of them actually says, "He dissed you bad." ...Burn?
So they start to beat him up, and he is rescued by a cheap Saved by the Bell reference. On his way past Lucas, he says that he likes Lucas's shoes. Right then, we learn just what M.D. Spenser knows of fashion trends when Lucas Lytle reveals that he is the ultimate fashion hipster. His mom dresses him up in the coolest clothes before they're cool by reading her fashion magazines including, get this: he "sagged" before it was cool. It literally says, "I wore big baggy pants that slid down to my hips and showed lots of my underwear long before anybody else did. Everybody made fun of me." Well, there's a reason for that, kid. Also, I don't think fashion magazines predicted that craze because it's visually the stupidest thing done with the body since perms. Like, why the hell do you wear a belt if you're wearing your pants at the freaking knees? At my old middle school, a public school with some twelve hundred kids, we had a security guard, one of two, that was probably in her fifties but looked much older, carried a taser, and actually might have used it on a student if a situation arose, or appeared to. She was a little too invested in her work. When people were sagging in the hall, she would sneak up behind them, grab the waist of their pants, and pull them up hard. Needless to say, it was a very uncomfortable experience. The moral is: don't be a tool. It sucks.
Lucas goes to class, where we find out what he looks like as he stares at his $150 basketball shoes. Basically, he's ugly. He's got big feet, big ears, but small hands (*hint hint*. You know what they say: big hands, big gloves) and the rest of him is kinda like that too. He then spends a paragraph telling the reader his philosophical and extremely perceptive observation that blackboards are green, and he just doesn't get it because he inherited the stupidity trait from every other protagonist that M.D. Spenser creates.
So M.D. Spenser continually emasculates and humiliates Lucas, and I'm guessing it must be pretty fun. Lucas is yelled at by his new teacher, and heads to lunch. He gives us keen insight on his lunch, "For lunch, we had mystery meat and instant mashed potatoes. I hate instant mashed potatoes. They taste like paste. I have never eaten paste, but I know kids who have. They say it tastes like instant mashed potatoes." That might have been the most beautiful quote I've ever seen, and- although it pains me to admit this- it was reasonably funny. For M.D. Spenser, anyway. So he sits at the same table as the nerds: Muddy, Wanda, and three other kids, one of which is supposed to be very smart. Well, comparatively.
Then there are the cool kids. There is Jason, Heather, Greg, Marcie, Brandi, Dylan, Peter, and Wynonna, which apparently is actually a name. As you may have guessed, there are many characters and no character development. So Lucas gets a mashed potato to the face, and then kids start throwing rolls at him for, like, five minutes and you'd think they work in a goddamn roll factory. Off to P.E.
The coach is a hardcore, army drill sergeant type that was apparently in the marines. Since Lucas has the strength of a paraplegic puppy, he has a hard time doing anything, so the coach yells at him. "'I've seen girls -- I've seen fat girls -- do more sit-ups than you. Ain't you had your Wheaties today, boy?'" ......Burn? He goes to the locker room to see that someone took all his clothes, so he runs, totally naked, outside the locker room (even though he has gym clothes, but I don't think they were in last week's fashion magazine, so that's out of the question.) and sees his clothes hung on the flag pole.
The next day, Luke is waking up and pretending to be sick, claiming that he might have cancer. No, I'm completely serious. "'I better go see a doctor,' I said in the voice of the half-dead, 'I think I have cancer.'" To be fair, this kid is seen watching Comedy Central, and if there's one thing that Comedy Central taught us, it's that when in doubt, make a cancer joke. Or an AIDS joke. Those are pretty fun. But, alas, his mother doesn't believe him for some strange reason and he's sent off to school because his intellect is as strong as the rest of him. He has also mentioned, like, five times how expensive his shoes are. Yeah, he's one of those guys. He goes to the bus stop where a few kids are smoking cigarettes, and M.D. Spenser starts playing dirty, "I wanted one of the older guys to offer me a smoke, even if it meant I would really get cancer and die." ............Burn? Yes, because it's a well-known fact that smoking one cigarette gives you insta-cancer, so watch out, kids. On the next Shivers book, Spenser shares his views on the dangers of drunk driving and marijuana usage, so stay tuned.
This kid Billy slapped Luke's head, and he got pissed, and as they left the bus, Billy's arm was stuck in the door. Luke was waiting for somebody to amputate it when the door opened. I'm guessing that Luke also believes that the best course of action for a stab wound would be to remove all your organs, so the knife can exit cleanly. It's common sense, for Luke at least. When the bus driver looks at Luke, there's a monstrous grin on her face.
In class, Leon trips on a shoelace and busts his head open. The teacher has the maniacal grin. At lunch, he gets picked on by the nerds. Yes, the nerds are higher on the social ladder than Luke. All of a sudden, they start throwing up, and the lunch lady grins. At P.E, the gym coach forces Luke and some fat kid named Ralph to engage in a rope-climbing battle, and coach says things that might get him fired, like that Ralph is "a pitiful pile of pig flesh... I ought to cut you up and fry you with my eggs." ........................Burn? And then, Ralph falls and crushes the my favorite character, the coach. Apparently, they're both dead.
At the funeral, which is a little awkward because I don't think that anybody wants him there, Luke starts hearing voices that tell him that he killed them, he'll burn in hell, he should never have let Brave win an oscar.
"Wait, how the hell was I supposed to prevent that?"
I don't know, interrupt the ceremony? With Seth McFarlane's hosting, it would have been a mercy killing.
"Why are you mad about Brave, isn't that, like, Pixar or something?"
Paranorman should have won. It's an injustice.
"So that's what made you angry about the Oscars? The animated movie?"
Moonrise Kingdom should have won more, too.
"Instead of what?"
I don't know. Lincoln?
"You realize this isn't even remotely topical anymore, right?" asked Lucas.
Months too late, worth the wait.
Guess what kind of face Ralph has in the coffin? That's right, a serene, insightful frown.
Just when everybody else starts grinning too, he wakes up and it's a dream sequence. I hate the dream sequences in these books. They pain me, like when you bite your tongue and you're dealing with the dull pain that is the average Shivers book, and then you get to a dream sequence and it's like Lucas came and just amputated it.
So Lucas goes into his kitchen, where the incidents are in the newspaper and he pulls off what might be the worst poker face in history. His dad says a lot of "Go ride 'em home, cowboy!" type things that explains where Luke gets his sense of humor. And then, he looks at his scrambled eggs and sees that his buddy Ralph is staring at him with blood and brains and stuff. It's never just eggs with these guys. Oh, also, Ralph and Coach are not dead because M.D. Spenser is incapable of actually killing someone off, but is comfortable with breaking limbs and gashing heads. Huh.
At school, Rough and Tough Huff is back to bullying Lucas at his locker. He starts calling him "Bad News," but that's not surprising since M.D. Spenser's idea of a burn is literally "'You're new now, but not for long,' Huff said, wiping his nose with the cuff of his shirt sleeve. 'When I get done with you, punk, you're going to be used and abused.'" Huff destroys Luke's locker, and then scares him so bad he pees his pants. In the principal's office, Luke doesn't give Huff away even under intense interrogation. The principal tries everything: name-calling, threats, bribes, even talking to him in a demeaning baby voice because he wet his widdle diapa. Luke stays strong, and gets a new pair of pants to change into. This is when the real horror starts for Luke: the horror of committing a crime against fashion. The pants are plaid and tight and small, and the only era when that could have been in a fashion magazine was the 70's.
Luke, in his state of not catching a break, runs into the 8-person jock/cheerleader group. He picks a fight with the four football players, and remembers his dad's supporting words: "Just keep on sailing, sailor." He fights with his eyes closed, and he totally tears the antagonists a few new ones. It describes in exquisite detail the damage he did to them, including broken fingers, pretty much ripping apart a couple people's faces, and dislocating a jock's shoulder. The cheerleaders are grinning creepily and have blood on them and creepy stuff.
At lunch, the nerds volunteer to sit with him, and he's asked on a date with this pretty girl named Ruby. Now I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that girls don't automatically fall for a kid who is ugly and kind of a psychopath. Maybe I'm wrong, though.
After school, Lucas walks in on- I'm one hundred percent serious, THIS IS NOT A JOKE- Huff trying to rape Ruby. I'm not joking. Here are a few quotes to prove it:
1. (said by Ruby) "STOP! Stop it! Please! I'll scream. Help! Somebody help!"
2. He has her pinned against a tree in the middle of a forest.
3. (Huff says) "'Okay,' he said, 'We'll do it your way. I'll take care of you first, and save the sweetie for last.'"
And my favorite: 4. "'Huff, let her go,' I said.
'Not yet, Puke Breath. I'm not done. You can have her when I'm through.'"
Jesus Christ. I know this is a teen and pre-teen book, but holy actual shit. Spenser is going full-on hardcore. I am looking at him in a whole new light now. Jeez. This is why I was happy when Lucas broke Huff's face with a backpack. I'm sure his dad would have told him to "give 'im the ol' 'one-two'." Oh, but Huff keeps going, making me think that M.D. Spenser needs to look up the terms "broken jaw" and "middle schooler." He ends up having his body contorted into some kind of human modern art piece, which I'm personally O.K. with since none of these characters have actual personalities. Oh, and the grin is on the principal's face this time. He was watching them from the bushes. This raises the question: why didn't he step in during Huff's one-on-one time with Ruby? I'll let the reader develop their own opinions.
A week later, nobody picks on Lucas anymore. He's considered cool because he caused kids to suffer major injuries, which makes me think that M.D. Spenser needs to look up the terms "cool" and "realistic." He shows up to class late, and then makes his teacher's skin bubble and burn. Basically, he's a massive douche. He starts smoking now, which you can apparently do out in the open at a middle school, and forces Billy, the kid whose arm was broken by the bus and can only use the un-casted arm, to carry his backpack. He walks around the bus, scaring younger kids and pushing people around. And all the cool kids love him for it.
If I could ask Luke one question, it would be if it was inconvenient. Having a head so big, you can't fit through small doors. Or if it's uncomfortable, overheating because he's such hot shit. Eventually, the principal decides to do his job and calls Luke in, suspending him. After school, the principal falls out of his window, and it's the secretary grinning evilly.
At home, the parents chastise Luke brutally, asking him if he's on drugs. His punishment is basically that he's allowed to laze around all day, watching Comedy Central. He sets up a date with Ruby even though he's grounded, and his mom starts thinking he's weird because he's always changing clothes. He tells his mom to chill, and she replies, "'Well, you better chill yourself'." BBBBBBBBBBBBUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRRNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's about time M.D. Spenser started layin' down some gnarly disses. Luke solves the problem by sneaking out when "Every Friday, my parents rent a couple of videos, close the door to their bedroom, and you don't see them until breakfast the next day. It's like a ritual with them." I wonder when he will realize that it was that very same ritual that led to his conception. I can tell that M.D. Spenser had a lot of fun with this one, since there are a couple not-so-subtle adult themes. This whole new style is freaking me out. It's like reading the bible and finding that they quoted a Lil Wayne song in there somewhere.
Anyway, after seeing Exterminator 4, he gets busted by his parents. He tries to assault them, but they lock him in his room. The next day, on the way to a psychologist, the family's car gets hit by a truck and both parents die. As he sees his reflection in the mirror, his face starts maniacally grinning and he realizes that-
And the Horrific Conclusion is:
It was a goddamn dream sequence. I cannot express how mad I was at the ending. I felt like punching a fetus. It was all a dream, it was the first day of school again, and I don't even care if Billy recognized him because it was all a freaking dream sequence.
Insight into the Complex Minds of Characters:
"I wish I had a brother. A big brother. He would know what to do.
Or two big brothers. Or four. And all of them bigger than Huff and Billy and Leon all put together. They would protect me.
We would be the Fighting Lytle Brothers. That would be great."
The Fighting Lytle Brothers.
The Fighting Lytle Brothers
"I saw blood on his head. But it turned out to be ketchup." Well thank you for the clarification.
I think Spenser has a thing for Star Trek, because he mentions it again. He also mentions Nintendo, David Letterman, and, of course, sagging, which Lucas probably should have trademarked.
It was a really good one. Pretty terrifying with all the grinning faces. In terms of Shivers books, if 10 was The Matrix and 1 was The Matrix 3, then this would be a 7 or 8. If only it didn't have an ending created by ink, paper, and the tears of orphans. Still, I can't shake the feeling that Spencer just redid The Mystic's Spell and made it darker.