Title: Mr. 60%
Author: Clete Barrett Smith
Genre: YA/ Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 192
I think it’s a shame that so few people seem to be reading this book. Sure, it’s not the kind of YA novel that inspires fandoms but I was immediately impressed by how real and down-to-earth it felt. The protagonist of Mr. 60% is a teenage boy named Matt, who adults judge the moment they see him slouching through the halls. Matt is a poor student who only does the bare minimum required for him to not get kicked out, and he deals drugs to his classmates instead of making an effort to get ahead academically.
At home, Matt takes care of his Uncle Jack, who is dying of cancer. Uncle Jack’s behavior is becoming more erratic by the minute and Matt is afraid that he won’t be able to handle it. When Matt is pressured to take an extracurricular activity so he can graduate, he ends up working with a heavyset and bewilderingly cheerful girl named Amanda who’s the only one willing to offer to be his partner.
One of the things I liked best about this book is that it was one of the rare young adult novels that focuses on a friendship developing between a guy and a girl without forcing pointless sexual tension into it. I liked both Amanda and Matt but I felt like including a romantic component there would have felt forced. All the characters also felt very authentic, with incredibly tough issues going on in their lives that nevertheless lacked melodrama or emotional manipulation.
None of them were perfect and none of them had their shit together (I guess the possible exception would be Amanda, but I also saw her as being a little morally grey) but the author focused on the good in them despite the mistakes they made. My only criticism of Mr. 60% was that I thought it ended way too abruptly. I would have liked to have gotten a better idea of what ended up happening to the characters. Ultimately, though, this book ended up surprising me and I’d like to read more from this author.