Title: Call the Shots I Author: Don Calame IPublisher: Candlewick Press
The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) offers the following synopsis for Call the Shots:
Sean, Matt and Coop have pulled off a few schemes in the past, but can they manage to make a low-budget horror film?
Actual Plot Summary: Call the Shots is book three in a coming of age series about three high school boys growing up in the Buffalo, NY area. Sean, Matt and Coop are known for getting themselves into unusual situations. The three boys recently won a Battle of the Bands contest and with that adventure behind them; Coop has decided that they can become millionaires by making a horror film and submitting it into a horror film festival.
At first, Sean wants nothing to do with the half-baked scheme but he changes his mind when he learns that his mother is expecting a baby. With a new sibling on the way, Sean will have to move into his twin sister's bedroom which will make the already argumentative association between them that much worse. He hopes that he and his friends can win the contest so that his family can afford to build an extra bedroom before the baby is born. With that accomplished, he won't have to put up with his hateful and demeaning Goth sister anymore. Sean convinces his wealthy, pot-head uncle to front the money for the project, and the three boys divvy up the responsibilities for producing the horror movie.
Sean is the only one of his friends who doesn't have a girlfriend, but that is about to change. While skating at a local ice rink, he literally runs into Evelyn Moss and she makes the unilateral decision that Sean is now her boyfriend. The domineering, manic-depressive, kleptomaniac girlfriend bullies her way into Sean's film and also gains a role for her violent and overbearing ex-Navy SEAL brother who was released from the military due to his anger management issues.
Sean is responsible for writing the script for the movie and with the help of his sister's best friend (Nessa) who has joined the effort as a prank to help his sister prove that Sean is gay; they put together a screenplay and shoot the film in time for a showing at the horror film festival. By the end of the story, Sean and Nessa have fallen in love, Evelyn has been arrested for shoplifting, and Sean's sister has come out as a lesbian.
This young adult book has earned a Mature Content rating for extreme language, extreme sexual content, extreme drug usage, cigarette usage, references to alcohol consumption, aberrant behaviors, socially inappropriate humor and gender confusion.
Review : *Warning * GRAPHIC CONTENT
You know what? For a moment, let's just forget that this review series is meant to critique the subject matter of books recommended by the American Library Association and specifically YALSA for children between the ages of 12 to 18. Instead, let me explain my personal experience with this story. I'm sorry to say that that this is not hyperbole. When I was a mere 1% of the way through Call the Shots by Don Calame, I had already exceeded my personal limit for vulgarity, and I've gotta tell you... that's no small achievement. I actually have a decently high tolerance for bawdy humor.
At 35% of the way through, I seriously considered shutting the book and moving on with the next title from the YALSA's list of recommended Young Adult books for 2013 because – from my perspective – Call the Shots is just that disturbing and depraved. I didn't quit because I reminded myself that this book is sitting on library shelves in schools throughout the country specifically because of the recommendations that the American Library Association provides and we, therefore, need to make it our business to know the content of such stories.
Call the Shots is written at about a fifth to sixth grade reading level. There is nothing challenging about the vocabulary. The story itself is pretty minimalist and consists of a series of lengthy dialog exchanges that are heinously repetitive and leave absolutely nothing to the imagination.
Let's be absolutely clear. This story is specifically meant to target middle school to lower high school aged boys. If you actually find a way to make it to the end of the book where the author makes his acknowledgments and "thank yous" for all the help he received along the way, Calame specifically thanks "all the teachers, librarians and booksellers on a mission to get boys to read more and who have taken my books to heart."
So again. Boys. Not young men. Not middle-aged fathers. Not senior citizens. This book is for boys. That's what the author tells us. That's who he expects will be reading his refuse.
Now, based on the content of Call the Shots, I assume that all those "teachers, librarians and booksellers" that are trying to engage teenaged boys believe that the best way to do so is to offer them more than twenty-five euphemisms for female genitalia. Maybe the "teachers, librarians and booksellers" think that in order to entertain a teenager's mind, one must provide him with sixteen separate references to male arousal. I must assume that a young man cannot be expected to enjoy a book unless it contains one hundred and seventy eight separate uses of profanity, thirteen uses of what we will term the "F" word, over seventy derogatory uses of the words "God", "Jesus," "Christ," "damn" or any combination of the subset.
I must assume that "teachers, librarians and booksellers" believe that long, haranguing attacks upon a main character's sexuality by both that character's sister and parents are the best way to entertain the 12 to 18 year audience. Because we want to teach children that sexual harassment is funny? Quick question. When some teenaged boy gets suspended for mimicking the verbal abuse that he has read in Calame's book, will "teachers, librarians and booksellers" come to his defense by explaining, "No, we told him that this kind of delinquent behavior is okay." Or will they "tut-tut" the young man for not being sensitive enough and send him off to diversity training?
Do "teachers, librarians and booksellers" hope that children…maybe your sons… might be willing read filth because nothing else will grab his attention? Direct quotes that you sons will be treated to BTW:
- "Blowing my schnooz with fifty dollar bills and wiping my ass with hundreds."
- "Yeah, I've got to tap that."
- "Off the TV, scrotum."
- "Ignore your sister. She's probably just having her period."
- Sister to mother: "I don't get it. I thought you were fixed."
- Mother to sister: "Well yes, Cathy. As difficult as that is for you to believe, your father and I have a very vigorous, active and healthy sex life."
- "That means your mom and dad are still grinding the guinea pigs?"
- "Your mom's got a bun in the oven is proof positive they're doing the grumble rumble."
- "Tell me you're not wondering how they do it. I bet it's not missionary. Because your dad's got that bloated physics-teacher belly going on. Which would get in the way. Unless he's got, like a blue whale schlong."
- Bunking with Count Skankula? That's egregious, dude."
- "No more punchin' the munchkin into the wee hours of the morning."
What? Is that too crude for you? Do you wish I wouldn't be so graphic? Are you asking yourself, "Why does Irene have to go there? Why is she so openly quoting such filth?" I don't know. If it's appropriate reading for your 12 to 18 year old son, is it less appropriate for you? Those excerpts that just I listed? That's a mere 10% of the way through this book. It gets worse. So-much-worse.
At 60% of the way through the book, I literally could not keep up with the drug usage, the vulgarities, the crude sexting sequence, the nauseatingly long diatribes on homosexuality, the various bodily fluids expelling here and there.
At one point in the story, the main character's uncle who is described as smoking a carrot sized joint – who has just offered that carrot sized joint to Sean and his under aged friends – who then takes a huge hit off his joint and blows the smoke directly in the children's faces – who then offers those children diet coke, beer or whiskey – explains that when he dies, he wants to be cremated so that his ashes can be rolled into a joint. If anyone wants to inherit his wealth, they must take a drag off that joint or they get nothing.
So…obviously…I do not recommend this book for children of any age. Or adults of any age. Or plants. Or small woodland creatures. Or single celled organisms. Or inanimate objects. If you happen to see this book anywhere near your children, pick them up, sling them over your shoulders and run far, far away.
Instead of recommending this book, I recommend that you weep. Weep for the future of mankind and for what was once your hard earned money because it has been confiscated through redistributive tax laws and has been given to the likes of the American Library Association so that they can promote this kind of waste to your children.
I recommend that you consider how the ALA views your sons by recognizing the low standards that it continues to set for them as if the only thing that could possibly get them reading is either this book or perhaps a copy of Hustler Magazine. Because that's all you can expect from boys, I guess.
I recommend that you consider the confusing messages that such institutions send your sons as they hand children books like these while chastising them for objectifying women. I recommend that you consider how the American Library Association is recommending American boys should view themselves as nothing more than brainless and witless slaves to their basest instincts.
I recommend that you begin demanding more for your children from schools and from the institutions that you fund – like the ALA. I recommend that you require your children to have more self-respect than to lower themselves to the obscenity that writers like Don Calame provide.
Finally, I recommend that you read with your children. Discuss and critique the books that you read with them. Teach them how to critically think so that when they are confronted with trash that masquerades as literature, your children will be mentally prepared to reject it for the pornography that it is. The Young Adult genre is filled with books that are just waiting to assault and mentally abuse your children. As we are starting to see, truly great YA literature is the exception and not the rule.