book review: How Lamar’s bad prank won a Bubba-sized trophy excerpt
author: Crystal Allen
date: Balzar and Bray; February 2011
main character: Lamar Washington
Reading Lamar’s bad prank made me want to play the theme song for a local amusement park that claims “there’s more than corn in Indiana”. The story, set in Coffin, Indiana has a definite faux midwest feel to it with Lamar greeting neighbors on their porch as he walks to the neighborhood bowling alley, everyone knowing each other by name and the whole town turning up for the high school championship game. There really is no Coffin, IN but you have to appreciate the nod to Levi Coffin, a famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. And just to set the geography straight, if you’re travel I-65 from anywhere in IN to Chicago, you’ll go UP I-65, never DOWN.
Lamar is easy to understand but difficult to like. He’s a smart alack kid who is easily influenced by others, a typical kid trying to find his way. I think dad is still stuck in grief mode over the passing of his wife and a bit too worried about his job status to really attend to his two boys who are literally fighting for his affection. Still, I don’t know how he missed such a large abusive situation that existed between his two sons. The story often lacks details to support important situations.
Lamar wants to win his father’s attention through bowling while his brother does it through basketball. Lamar makes some bad decisions, listens to the wrong people and he lands in a world of trouble. What Lamar ends up doing isn’t so much a bad prank as much as it is retaliation. Unfortunately, we don’t we see much of Lamar’s goodness until he’s contrite. One of the bad decisions that Lamar makes is to friend Billy Jenks, a young man that everyone knows is bad news. I can get that Lamar thought he saw something others missed, tha perhaps Billy wasn’t so bad and besides, Billy was a smooth character who worked Lamar. What I don’t get is why Lamar couldn’t just let Billy’s friendship go after he showed his true colors and why he wasn’t encouraged to do so.
Allen gives us a light story with well-developed characters and corny language from the Heartland.
review copy provided by the publisher