A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie. Blackstone, Matt (Author) Jul 2011. 256 p. Farrar, hardcover, $16.99. (9780374364212).
Life is an endless high-wire act for 14-year-old obsessive-compulsive Rene. He can’t step on cracks. The coins he picks up must be lucky ones. He has got to wear the correct number of rubber bands around his wrists. Closing his locker is impossible without tapping it three times with his pinkie. Slipups result in any number of doomsday fantasies, from humiliation to disease to outright murder. Then he befriends Gio, an unconventional classmate who has his own vocabulary (“b’noodles” means awesome) and takes the nervous Rene on an unannounced seat-of-their-pants road trip to New York City. The feedback loops of worry—perhaps unavoidably—can be a bit maddening, but Blackstone keeps things fresh with insight and wit. He is also skilled at creating fully realized adult characters: both Rene’s loudmouthed father and depressed English teacher are achingly real and believably troubled. This debut might suffer from competition with other similarly themed titles, but it’s still pretty darn b’noodles. — Daniel Kraus