Title: Mr. 60%
Author: Clete Barrett Smith
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Expected Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Rating: 2.5 Stars
I received an ARC copy of Mr. 60% in exchange for an honest review. Thanks goes to NetGalley as well as Crown Books for Young Readers for this advanced copy which is expected to be released August 22 2017.
Dear fellow Babblers,
Mr. 60% by Clete Barrett Smith is exactly as the title states – sixty percent. This is an average book with nothing unique, outstanding or memorable about it. There is nothing to critique, rant about, acclaim. Everything that happens in this book is typical, ordinary and all together bland. I was not effected by the storyline in any way shape or form. It is only 192 pages so I was able to finish it in one sitting, but that is not to say that it was a page turner. It seems as though this book was just spit out over night. It was written hurriedly and with as little imagination as possible.
Matt Nolan is the high school drug dealer, deadbeat, and soon-to-be dropout according to everyone at his school. His vice principal is counting down the days until Mr. 60% (aka Matt) finally flunks out and is no longer his problem. What no one knows is the only reason Matt sells drugs is to take care of his uncle Jack, who is dying of cancer.
Meet Amanda. The overly cheerful social outcast whose optimism makes Matt want to hurl. Stuck as partners during an after-school club (mandatory for Matt), it’s only a matter of time until Amanda discovers Matt’s secret. But Amanda is used to dealing with heartbreak, and she’s determined to help Matt find a way to give life 100 percent.
Mr. 60% is about a bad ass jerk, Matt, who goes to high school not for education, but to reach his customers. He averages – you guessed it – sixty percent in all of his classes. He lives with his Uncle Jack in a trailer park. He never knew his father and his mother is in jail. The money he makes off selling drugs at school goes to his uncle’s pain killers. Uncle Jack is slowly dying of cancer and there is little he or Matt can do but wait for the illness to overcome him and ultimately take his life away. Matt bears the weight of adult life on his shoulders and is seen as the “tough guy you don’t mess with” at school. He has few friends as his main objectives consist of scraping enough money through selling in order to get by. His vice principal and school counselor are on consistently on his back to pick his grades up or alternatively expel him from high school. A new school rule comes along that requires Matt to join a club and the only one he qualifies for is the community service club. Here, he meets Amanda, a fat girl with aspirations to go to nursing school. The two are paired together in the school club and after a rough beginning, have an unbreakable friendship.
Okay so where is the “umpf” that we are all waiting for? Step aside and allow me to say “it ain’t here.” We have our average kid selling drugs to pay his family’s medical expenses. A bubbly, way too happy-go-lucky girl comes along and becomes a part of this guy’s life. Amanda basically turns into Uncle Jack’s nurse and goes as far as missing some of school so she can babysit him. Matt is literally a miracle in Amanda’s life as she has had no friends up to this point. Reason? She’s fat. Really? I mean…really? Just because a girl is fat she has no friends? I find this so unrealistic and just straight out unnecessary. Excuse me for saying so but there are plenty of people out there who look past exteriors and into a person’s heart and personality. I mean, just about half the world’s population is overweight, thanks to fast food and microwave dinners, so to basically say that Amanda is lonely because she’s fat just irritated me beyond all measures.
While the book should have been heart-wrenching and deeply personal since it does draw upon the forces of cancer and the effects that it can have on loved ones, the author’s description and treatment of the issue was just dry and submissive. There did not seem to be any connection between Uncle Jack and Matt other than they have to live and deal with each other. There is a brief scene at where Matt is reading a card written to him by Uncle Jack that is pretty sentimental, that’s all we get. There is no character development and no great resolution. After Uncle Jack dies Matt literally spends the next few weeks in complete and utter isolation despite Amanda’s continuous attempts to help him.
The ending was unsatisfying and just as wishy-washy as the plot was. It is almost as though the writer got weary from writing that he just decided to send Matt off into Amanda’s pudgy arms and “happy days are here again.” There were no shocking endings or plot twists. There was little character conflict or development. I feel as though this book could have been easily written during a weekend stuck in Yosemite. The plot and idea is fine and dandy but there has to be something striking that separates this plot from several other books which have similar storylines. In Mr. 60% everything happens just as one would anticipate. A boy deals drugs at school and gets busted on multiple occasions. He hides his breaking life from the rest of the world. He gets stuck with a girl he doesn’t care for but eventually becomes friends with her. His family member dies and now he’s alone and depressed. Fast forward a few weeks and he is friends again with the girl. That is, bottom line, all that happens. I don’t understand how a reader is expected to enjoy a story that has the most typical, monotonous plot, characters, and events.
I am giving this book 2.5 stars instead of 1 because, while it was a milk-and-water read, I can’t say it was disastrous. The author still told the story and followed a very coherent, easy to follow direction. However, I read for thrill and the opportunity to traverse and lose myself in the fictional universe. Mr. 60% was not the book for that. I felt little to no connection with anything happening or being described. It was heavy in dialogue with not enough description to create a tone or a mood. I’m still not exactly sure what the author was expecting the reader to think or feel after reading, but I do not think “nothing” was the goal, which is exactly how I feel towards it now “nothing.”
(Book image credit goes to Goodreads)