Author: A. E. Kaplan
Genre: realistic fiction/retelling
Similar books: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
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Summary (provided by publisher): The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Revenge of the Nerds in this tale of a teen misfit who seeks to take down the bro next door, but ends up falling for his enemy’s sister and uncovering difficult truths about his family in the process.
Tom Grendel lives a quiet life—writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the “manic-pixie-dream” label. But when Willow’s brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens’ community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is rightfully pissed—his dad is an Iraq vet, and the noise from the parties triggers his PTSD—so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. But of course, it’s not that simple.
One retaliation leads to another, and things quickly escalate out of control, driving Tom and Willow apart, even as the parties continue unabated. Add to that an angsty existential crisis born of selectively reading his sister’s Philosophy 101 coursework, a botched break-in at an artisanal pig farm, and ten years of unresolved baggage stemming from his mother’s death . . . and the question isn’t so much whether Tom Grendel will win the day and get the girl, but whether he’ll survive intact.
My opinion: This book is exactly what I wanted to see from a retelling: so masterful and creative that the reader does not immediately realize that the story is, in fact, a retelling. Grendel is a truly sympathetic character, not entirely without blame for the situation but largely likeable and believable. He's a little hapless. Kaplan has built this book more off of the broad concepts of the original rather than the literal details (it would be far bloodier otherwise), which means that even a reader who doesn't know the original can enjoy this novel and allows for some original plot twists. While it's not particularly deep, it is a solidly entertaining read.
More information: Grendel's Guide to Love and War release April 18.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.