Matt Blackstone A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie
248 pp. Farrar Straus Giroux 2011 ISBN: 978-0-374-36421-2
Interest: 2011 Debut Author Challenge / Student alumni book club choice
Source: Book received from the author (Thank you, Matt!!)
Summary (From Goodreads): Rene, an obsessive-compulsive fourteen year old, smells his hands and wears a Batman cape when he’s nervous. If he picks up a face-down coin, moves a muscle when the time adds up to thirteen (7:42 is bad luck because 7 + 4 + 2 = 13), or washes his body parts in the wrong order, Rene or someone close to him will break a bone, contract a deadly virus, and/or die a slow and painful death like someone in a scary scene in scary movie. Rene’s new and only friend tutors him in the art of playing it cool, but that’s not as easy as Gio makes it sound.
I want to start off saying that Matt Blackstone did send me a copy of his book, but that hasn’t altered my thoughts on the book. Gae Polisner, the author of The Pull of Gravity, was telling me about Matt’s book in a Facebook thread. One of my former students, Joe, saw the thread and looked up Matt’s book. He added on to the thread that he really wants to read this book, so I suggested that we read it as our next alumni book club pick. From there, Gae sent Matt a message saying he should add me as a friend because of what Joe and I were saying (and because Matt and I are both English teachers!). You can figure out the rest 🙂
To the review–I really did like A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie. It has wonderful boy appeal, tons of humor and wit, and it’s touching at times also.
The character development is strong, which I’m always a fan of. Rene is fourteen years old, but he really hasn’t reached the maturity of a fourteen year old. Although as I type that, I’m thinking to myself, how mature are fourteen year old boys?? To be fair, I have had some fairly mature boys in my English 9 classes. As I was getting to know Rene’s character, I pictured him being at the level of a 7th or 8th grade boy. He wants to mature and like the other guys, Gio in particular, but he still has his digital Batman watch, wears a cape, and imagines himself fighting crime as he’s walking home. All of these nuances make Rene very likable as a character. Within the first few pages I was giggling enough that my husband glanced over at me with a “What are you reading?” look. I, of course, told him all about it 🙂 Rene is hyper aware of the people around him. He has names for the different types of kids in school like the Cutters (they cut class) and the Smartypants. His example of what the Smartypants are like reminded me of a girl I knew in middle school who, during a Girl Scout retreat, corrected my pronunciation of the word “jaguar.” This would be a funny story, but only if you could actually hear the story and how it sounded when she said it. She would be a member of the Smartypants clique.
I haven’t read too many books with characters that suffer from OCD. For this reason, I was looking forward to reading A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie to see how it affected Rene. Most times I giggled when he’d get going about something. He gets so distracted by his compulsions, that Rene often misses what others are saying or he just completely misunderstands them. This happened often with his teacher and with his friend Gio. These conversations are when I was laughing the most because it would really take some patience and understanding to interact with Rene. Honestly, though, I thought sometimes that his actions as a result of the OCD resembled how my students with autism act. The examples I’m thinking of are how paranoid Rene would get that the kids at school were talking about him and when he’d get completely sucked into his imagination. This is a great book for teens to read because they’ll have a better understanding of what people suffering from OCD are going through. They’ll know what everyday life can be like for them. I can’t imagine living my life like Rene; it’s exhausting to think about what he goes through.
Reading this book will not only provide you with plenty of laughs, but it will also give you the opportunity to connect with a deeply layered character. The supporting characters are wonderful as well, and I’m sure you’ll be rooting for them. As a final comment, I’m not going to give the ending away, of course, but I really did like it; it’s full of hope.