Publisher's Note:  

Jake Schwartz is not looking forward to middle school. Puberty feels light years away, he's not keen on the cool clothes or lingo, and he has the added pressure of preparing for his bar mitzvah. The only saving grace is that Danny Uribe, his lifelong best friend, will be by his side....

Or will he? Since Danny's summer growth spurt, there's been a growing distance between him and Jake. Danny is excited to explore all that junior high has to offer--especially the girls (and most notably Hannah, Jake's older sister). But gang life has its allure, and he soon finds himself in over his head.

Meanwhile, Hannah is dealing with her own problems; being Queen Bee is not easy. The other girls are out for blood, and boys are so...exhausting. Danny surprises her with his maturity, but can her reputation survive if she's linked to a sevvy? And what would Jake think about his sister hooking up with his best friend?

Dororthy Wu could not care less about junior high drama. She is content staying in her bedroom and writing epic stories of her adventures as a warrior mermaid maiden. But that changes when she discovers the school's writing club. There, she meets a young lad with heroic potential and decides that life outside of her fantasy world just might have some appeal.

In the course of one year at San Paulo Junior High, these four lives will intersect in unique and hilarious ways. Friendships will grow and change. Reputations will transform. And someone will become a man.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Hyperion Books for Children (A Disney Imprint)

Trash Can Days

by Teddy Steinkellner

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Overall Review:  

The light-hearted title Trash Can Days and its accompanying cover belie the dark and oft oppressive content between the novel's covers.  Written from multiple points of view (main characters, minor characters, adults, etc.) and in multiple formats (diary format, online chats, blogs, school announcements, newspaper articles, etc.) it is an eclectic mix that never quite works; the jumps in perspective and format make it difficult to deeply engage in the story.  Compound this with four main characters who in many ways are hyperboles and the reader is left floundering for a character to connect with and cheer for.  Although the author probably sought to provide a variety of characters in an effort to appeal to the diverse group of readers in middle school, the extreme characters were not appealing because they ranged from unlikeable to pathetic to unrealistically strange.  (It isn't necessary for characters to be likeable to be successful, but it is difficult to pull off.)  Furthermore, the transformations of the characters' social statuses and attitudes were not sufficiently supported in the book to be believable at the conclusion.  The one exception was the character Danny.  Danny's story and the pull of gang life were well-written; he often disappointed the reader with his choices, but they felt genuine.


While aspects of Trash Can Days may represent realities of middle school for some students, it dwelt on the fringes and the "hopeful" ending didn't feel congruent with the preceding character storylines.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  10 religious exclamations; 15 mild obscenities; 1 religious profanity; 37 derogatory names; 17 scatological words; 32 anatomical terms.


Violence/Gore:  Character put in a trash can; extended scene (~1 page) in which a character is beat, kicked, etc. as part of a gang initiation (detailed); report of a death; extended scene (~2 pages) description of a gang fight with kicking, punching, threats; confrontation in which a character is stabbed and another is punched until unconscious, mention of blood (some description)


Sex/Nudity:  References, including but not limited to--pimp, making out, sex, a girl being slutty, calling girls sluts/whores, general reference to dirty jokes, "man boobs", girl called a "ho", guys/girls referred to as "hot", "big boobs", a few references to menstrual periods, boys talk about their male anatomy, crude online name; report of kissing and "tongue kiss", "mouth-freak", half-joking comment that observed dancing possibly impregnated some girls, freak dancing, sperm, making out; character wonders if someone is a lesbian; report of freak dancing; character comes upon couple making-out; brief scene where teenagers make out on a bed with boy groping and starting to undo a belt; boy thinks about kissing a girl; hand-holding; general reference to a teenage couple using a room; description of teenagers making out on a bed (~1 page); extended passage from a sexual education class with detailed descriptions in answer to student questions, some crude and some factual; paragraph talking about guitar riff from a porn movie; a character is said to be gay.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Gangs and gang violence

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Weed found in a student's locker.  Teenagers and adults drink champagne at a party.  Teenagers and 6th graders drink beer.

Reviewed By Cindy
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