Title: The Trouble in Me
Author: Jack Gantos
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 224
I love Joey Pigza so I was surprised how much I disliked this book. The main character has no redeeming qualities, so it concerns me that he seems pretty closely based on the author as a young teen. We’re supposed to believe he’s a ‘good boy’ caught up in a bad situation but I wanted to kick him in the teeth. Jack is a wimpy fourteen-year-old boy with an abusive dad and a somewhat oedipal dynamic with his mom (is it just me or was the scene with him lotioning up her legs… a little weird?)
He becomes fixated with this obviously sociopathic boy named Gary who lives next door and wants to be just like him. I immediately had a hard time believing this because Gary isn’t portrayed as charming or charismatic and he didn’t seem to have any traits an impressionable kid would want to emulate. He’s just a dickhead who continually berates Jack and puts him in a number of dangerous situations.
Jack is a complete toadie and he didn’t have any sense whatsoever. I know fourteen-year-old boys can be really immature and the brain isn’t finished developing and blah blah blah but the relationship between the two boys made no sense to me. Gary’s behavior just kept getting more and more over-the-top and (SPOILER ALERT) the scene where Gary tries to get Jack to break the puppy’s neck was what officially made me hate the book. Jack was going to DO it to fit in with Gary and when he started twisting the dog’s neck I wanted to scream and throw the book across the room. (END OF SPOILER.) It was complete bullshit. This book failed on a fundamental level and I can’t believe this is the same guy who wrote the Joey Pigza books.