Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! Hurrah! This week I'm reviewing a middle grade novel that has been on my mind for some time. So many books these days have a magical element, or a fantastical setting (both of which I love), that it's quite easy to forget just how compelling middle school itself can be as a subject matter.
Do you remember the drama of middle school? Do you remember those moments of real, gut-wrenching fear? Or the explosively hilarious comedy of a well-timed poop joke? Well, The Fourth Stall delivers a keen representation of these moments in a middleschooler's life.
The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you've ever wondered what Al Capone and his buddies might've been like in middle school, The Fourth Stall is your answer. In this cunning, smart tween-age mobster story, Mac is a savvy sixth grader who runs a shady service out of a defunct bathroom stall.
With his longtime buddy Vince backing him up, Mac sells solutions to other kids' problems. He's perfectly happy delivering practical solutions to problems like procuring test answers, or even making loans, until a competitor starts cutting into his profits.
This competitor, in true gangster style, is known only by the name Staples. He no longer even attends school--instead, he's a fixer running a gambling ring, and he's draining Mac's customers dry. Mac and Vince can't let Staples keep operating or they'll never be able to afford their dream: tickets to see the Chicago Cubs play a World Series game!
The Fourth Stall follows Mac and Vince's journey in hilarious and honest detail--Rylander really gets kids at this age, especially boys. I can recall being so consumed with a handmade jewelry business I ran in sixth grade that I forgot about school almost entirely. That's the case with these boys, as well. They fight for what they want, test their limits along the way, and realize that true friendship, in the end, is the greatest prize of all.
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