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Book Review: Character Driven by David Lubar

characterdrivenWhat do Better Off Dead, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Lizzie McGuire all have in common?

Besides the fact that they seriously date me, I mean.

Character Driven by David Lubar all bring these references to mind in both voice and in the way the main character breaks the fourth wall.

Cliff, that is his real name, stands figuratively on the edge of a cliff. He seems like a stereotypical teenage boy – he really, really wants to get laid. Desperately. And here he narrates his quest for us, speaking directly to the reader. Sometimes he lies. Sometimes he introduces things out of sequence. Sometimes he goes for the big gotcha. Through it all, Cliff engages the reader with a compelling voice and situations we can all relate to (self doubt, trying to make connections, managing our feelings).

But there is more to the story. You see, some of the things you think Cliff is lying about – some of the very things he tells you are not true – are in fact half true. He’s really trying to tell you something. Like all of our teens, he sincerely is trying to tell us something important, we just have to learn how to listen. Because some truths aren’t easy to reveal, and Cliff desperately needs us to hear his story. As someone who works with teens, I found this aspect of the story fascinating. I have worked with many teens who are trying desperately to be heard and I thought that Lubar did a really good job of this.

Character Driven by David Lubar is a very compelling yet nontraditional read. By having the main character speak directly to the reader as he shares his journey of trying to write his truth down, Lubar really pulls you in. Yes, other authors have used this technique, but Lubar does it well and its effective. On the surface, it reads like a dark 80s comedy about a teenage boys quest to get him some (and when he does – or does he? – that’s a fun bit of the story as well), but there is deeper meaning to this story. The reveal is heartbreaking and very realistically captures a life that unfortunately many of our teens are in fact living.

There are probably literary names for the various devices that Lubar uses to tell this story, but I am not that reviewer. What I do know is that my teen readers will be drawn to this story, they will read it quickly, and then they will be moved to think about this character and all the things that happen to him, both good and bad. I recommend it.

About CHARACTER DRIVEN by David Lubar

“Call me Cliff. By an accident of birth, I am well named for this story. Think about it. Cliff. Precipice. Edge. There you have it. I’m Cliff. Cliff Sparks.”

With only one year left of high school, seventeen-year-old Cliff Sparks is desperate to “come of age”―and find a girlfriend. But he’s never had much luck with girls. So when he falls for Jillian, a new classmate, at first sight, all he can do is worship her from afar. At the same time, Cliff has to figure out what to do with the rest of his life, since he’s pretty sure his unemployed father plans to kick him out of the house the minute he turns eighteen.

Time is running out for Cliff. He’s at the edge, on the verge, dangling―and holding on for dear life.

Released March 1st from Tor Teen

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