Title: King of the Screwups
Author: K.L. Going
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 320
This is my first book by popular YA author K.L. Going and now I want to read her other books (the next one on my itinerary is The Liberation of Gabriel King, then Fat Kid Rules the World.) King of the Screwups has an unusual protagonist for a young adult novel; Liam is rich, well-liked by just about everybody at his school, and has a way with the ladies.
He seems to have everything but he’s an endless disappointment to his emotionally abusive father. His dad makes it clear under no uncertain terms that he has no use for his son, and when he catches Liam hooking up in his office, he kicks him out of the house. Liam ends up living at a trailer park with his gay cross-dresser uncle, and at first it feels like they have nothing in common.
Even though he’s straight in some ways Liam seems more stereotypically gay than his uncle; he loves fashion and likes everything clean and orderly. ‘Aunt’ Pete’s trailer is grungy and trashed and its obvious Liam doesn’t want to be there. He immediately starts getting in trouble at his new school and tries to prove to an unpopular girl named Darleen that he’s a ‘brain,’ while only managing to get on her nerves.
You know that by the end of this book Liam will have to break free of his dad and stop trying to please him, but it turns out to be a pleasure getting there. Liam and Pete are believable, well-developed character with their share of flaws, and I liked seeing the development of their begrudging relationship. It was also nice to see a different kind of YA protagonist and a straight guy with a somewhat ambiguous sexual identity.
The only thing that annoyed me about this book was Darleen’s character and Liam’s constant attempts to prove to her that he was a ‘nerd’ to impress her and to attempt to become more of the kind of son his dad wanted. She was such a one-note character and Liam made such a fool of himself. He just couldn’t seem to leave her alone and with all the kids who are picked on and bullied for being nerdy I got sick of him trying so hard to prove he wasn’t rich and popular.
I mean, talk about rich kid privilege, huh? Liam annoyed me at times but that was actually one of the things I liked about his character. He definitely seemed like a real person to me and even though he got on my nerves sometimes I hated how his dad treated him. Anyone who has broken free of an abusive parental relationship should be able to relate to this story and Liam’s growing friendship with his uncle and his uncle’s gay friends is warm and satisfying.