Carter is not exactly what you’d call a suave person. He’s got ADD, and he has a stuttering problem, especially around girls he’s attracted to. He rides a bike. He can’t quite do a gainer off the diving board. He’s on the football team, but in one of the less glamorous positions. And yet, here he is, starting high school, hoping it’ll be all that he’s ever wanted (in his horny 14-year-old boy case): sex, preferably with a hot chick.
The book chronicles Carter’s ups (such as they are) and downs (and, hoo boy, are they spectacular) over the course of his freshman year as he tries (and tries again) to figure out how to go about this whole high school business. I have to say that as a mom, I cringed: if 14-year-olds are anything like Carter (and they probably are), then why am I letting my daughter out among them?
But my reaction as a reader? I found myself warming to Carter and his doofishness. He’s so adorably clueless that I think you can’t help but love him (eventually) and cheer for him. It helps that Crawford is a captivating writer; he got 14-year-olds spot-on (which is part of the reason I’m anxious about my daughters….), and he treats his characters (all of them: from Carter’s “boys,” to his older sister and parents, to the upperclassmen that Carter interacts with) with intelligence, affection, and, most of all, humor.
Because, whatever else this book is (a coming-of-age story, a high school book, a guy book), it’s funny. Carter, mostly inadvertently, is hilarious. It’s a combination of things: Carter, the character; the situations he gets himself into; and the way Crawford writes about it all.
At any rate, I grew to really like Carter. I still may not let my daughter go to high school, though.
Rated: High, for talk about sex, porn and masturbation; underage drinking; instances of heavy petting. Also several instances of mild swearing.