Monday, May 8, 2017

Me and Marvin Gardens - Amy Sarig King

Summary: Obe Devlin has problems. His family's farmland has been taken over by developers. His best friend Tommy abandoned him for the development kids. And he keeps getting nosebleeds, because of that thing he doesn't like to talk about. So Obe hangs out at the creek by his house, in the last wild patch left, picking up litter and looking for animal tracks.

One day, he sees a creature that looks kind of like a large dog, or maybe a small boar. And as he watches it, he realizes it eats plastic. Only plastic. Water bottles, shopping bags... No one has ever seen a creature like this before, because there's never been a creature like this before. The animal--Marvin Gardens--soon becomes Obe's best friend and biggest secret. But to keep him safe from the developers and Tommy and his friends, Obe must make a decision that might change everything.

In her most personal novel yet, Printz Honor Award winner Amy Sarig King tells the story of a friendship that could actually save the world. (Summary and pic from

My Review: Well this was a funny little book. I do like JFic for some of the wacky things that happen. This book was no exception. The story itself is real enough—a beautiful and large parcel of land owned by one family that is, 100 years ago, sold off for various reasons, much of it by the grandfather of the main character to pay drinking debts. Now the family must watch as its beloved land is turned into subdivisions all in different phases. My family has never owned land like this, but I did grow up in a rural-ish place that was slowly built up into houses. I used to ride my horse through the fields in back of my house, but those fields are now subdivisions with names about as cheery as the ones in this book. So I can somewhat understand what the protagonist is going through.

I loved that there were fun kid things that he did—burying something of his in each of the houses to be built so that the land would still be his. I loved that he would go places and feel a sense of belonging and loss for the land. It really did paint an accurate portrait of a young boy. I have boys around this age and I can totally see that they think how he did. My oldest son is just this age, and he has friends who are starting to get into girls. He isn’t interested at all yet, though (thankfully!). He seems utterly confused by the giggling girls around him and can’t figure out what’s going on. I really enjoyed the main character for this reason—I think he is a realistic boy caught in a realistic situation with very real and relatable thoughts and actions. That is one of the things I love about good JFic.

Now for the animal. Marvin Gardens. How hilarious is it to have an animal who eats trash and poops toxic waste and seems the answer to all things but possibly also the problem of all things? It’s really quite funny, and also sad, too, and again, I loved watching how the kids interacted with him and accepted him. They were fine with a mythical-type creature. They didn’t have a problem believing he was real or trusting him, even when they understood the gravitas of the situation. I mean, it’s no small feat to discover an animal and then have to protect it and know who to tell to both protect it from the world as well as protect the world from it. It was an interesting conundrum that added a layer of maturity to the book that I also appreciated.

One thing I did not love about the book was how heavy-handed it was. I believe that humans pollute the world. I will leave it at that because who wants to read about global warming and whether or not it exists and whether or not humans created it on a book blog? Not me. The point is that I am fine with authors discussing issues. I am. But I do not like being hit over the head with an agenda, no matter what that agenda is, even if I agree with it. Now if I go into a book expecting an agenda—like I’m reading a religious text or maybe a book with the title This is what I think of this topic and I’m going to spend 300 pages telling you about it then I shouldn’t be annoyed because I know what I’m getting into and I’m willingly subjecting myself to such things. However, when I feel like an author tells me something and then hits me over the head with it over several hundred pages I get annoyed and then possibly rebellious about it. I’m looking at you, Barbara Kingsolver. I do feel that this book was somewhat this way. However, because it is a JFic book I understand that subtlety is not necessarily as effective.

Overall, I found this to be a witty and creative book with lots to offer. It was a fun story but also discussed real issues and real feelings, which I think is great. I think my boys would love it.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is quite a bit of discussion of poop, which they call scat after talking about poop for quite awhile. Also, there is some bullying. 

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