Title: Wise Young Fool I Author: Sean Beaudoin I Publisher: Little Brown & Co.
Young Adult literature is defined by the American Library Association as fiction that would be appropriate for children between the ages of 12 to 18. A branch of the American Library Association known as the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) offers the following synopsis for Wise Young Fool:
Wannabe rock star Ritchie Sudden is spending 90 days in juvie – just enough time to tell his tale of lust, loss, and, of course, rock-and-roll.
Actual Plot Summary: This is a flashback/flashforward story told in first person from the perspective of a high school senior (Ritchie Sudden) who starts a rock band with his best friend in order to compete in a "battle of the bands" contest.
The book has a large cast of characters that includes:
Elliot Hella – best friend in dire need of anger management. Elliot convinces Ritchie that they should form a punk rock band. This, unbeknownst to Ritchie, is because Elliot is failing out of high school.
Chaos - the pot smoking, OWS-ish bongo player for the band.
Beth – sister who is killed by a drunk driver.
Dad Sudden – Ritchie's dad. He abandons his family soon after Beth's death, remarries and has a new family but rarely bothers to look in on Ritchie.
Looper – the lesbian lover of Ritchie's mom and soon to be co-mother of the baby that Ritchie's mom is carrying. Looper is naturally the only parental authority in Ritchie's life because his mom and dad have emotionally checked out.
Ravenna – the school's hot, rich girl that Ritchie wants to…date. Please regard the term "date" as a euphemism. The author provides this character with a very disturbing accident involving the mutilation of her breasts…which Sean Beaudoin seems to treat as LMAO hilarious if I'm interpreting the exchanges properly…before she is transferred to a top notch boarding school and begins…dating Ritchie.
Lacy – the school's preppy girl who throws away her wholesome image and her virginity to get closer to Ritchie. Lacy becomes lead singer for the band.
Peanut, Connor and B'Lo – they, along with a host of other criminal personalities – keep things interesting for Ritchie while he serves time in juvenile detention so that the author can provide long strings of sodomy allusions to lighten the reader's mood.
Dr. Benway – She helps Ritchie sort through his anti-social behaviors while he is in juvenile detention as part of his sentence for driving his car through Mr. Isley's house.
Mr. Isley (Dice) – high school teacher who shows up at various teen hangout locations to party with his students in an effort to cement his image as the "cool" teacher. He has a proclivity for high school girls. This fuels the rumor mill that he has had affairs and has impregnated more than one young woman. He made a pass at Ritchie's sister Beth just before she died and Ritchie blames Dice for her death and blames himself for not speaking up about the situation.
This young adult book has earned a Mature Content rating for extreme and frequent profanity, graphic sexual content, extreme depression, depictions of illegal drug usage, underage drinking and underage cigarette usage and aberrant behaviors. It also receives one star for story development.
Review : I suggest to you this; if you want your book to be considered as one of 2015's Best Fictions for Young Adults by the American Library Association? You'll want to make sure that your story has at least one lesbian and one reference to the inherent illegitimacy of America as it was founded. The main character should radiate the reproductive determination of flies leaving the maggot stage. It would also be helpful if you include a back alley abortion, a demonic possession that leaves your protagonist wanting more and at least one reference to the stupidity of Republicans and conservative Christians. Consider a protagonist that has been abandoned or raped by his or her father and feel free to work in drug usage wherever appropriate to the story line. Such elements meet the ALA's strict criteria for quality and appeal for literature intended for children between the ages of 12 to 18.
Three hundred and thirty-two separate uses of profanity are present in Wise Young Fool. There is no shortage of potty humor. This includes a mother telling her son who is a high school senior to make sure he wipes. There's any number of glib references to sodomy. The book provides a sex scene that is so descriptive and profane and feral that it might be better shelved in the adult-only section of your local library. The story includes a barely disguised accusation that Victoria's Secret produces lingerie that is laced with toxic chemicals that will burn a woman's skin. There is an utterly vicious scene where a character severely wounds her breasts while skinny dipping.
Have you ever watched a movie in which the illusion of reality was shattered for whatever reason and you can't reestablish your suspended disbelief to make the film watchable no matter what you do? You know what I'm talking about? It's that sensation of trying to get lost in a story but only being able to see a cast of actors reading lines written by someone else… yes – well, that's the experience that I just had reading Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin.
Try as I would to immerse myself in the book, I just couldn't get past the sensation that the characters were nothing more than vehicles and that those vehicles were created specifically to drive Sean Beaudoin's very pervasive political agenda. The personalities mostly seemed like they were ancillary to the dogmatic ax that Beaudoin wanted to grind. The truth is that there's really very little story here to review. The book reads like a technical manual for proper irreverence etiquette…like Miss Manners' Guide to Depravity.
For me, I completely lost buy-in early in the story while reading a conversation between Ritchie and his mom's lesbian live-in...which, right there this is so formulaic to YALSA's "best YA literature" requirements that it affords parodic distraction.
Again, I couldn't get past the "watch and learn" vibe that the exchange demanded. Ritchie maneuvers through a just slightly too clever conversation with Looper about the difference between bad skinheads and good skinheads…I paused, pondering that contrivance for a moment before I imbibed his elixir of clueless insights…"Okay," thought I. "Wow me." Per Ritchie, bad skinheads are the Nazis you've come to expect with their pamphlets and profound stupidity. Good skinheads, you see, are different. Sure they look like Nazis but they're well intentioned peaceniks who are into PETA, vegetarianism and womyn's rights.
It was that precisely pithy discussion between a high school senior and his mom's live-in that ended the illusion. The chat contained just the right amount of wit and banter…carefully measured so as to sway the YA reader that there's something vastly different between the fervor of the neo-Nazi pamphleteer and a membership in the more spiritually wholesome PETA, which promotes nary a pamphlet nor an absurdity.
So from that moment on, whenever Ritchie spouted off from his impressive collection of pith and proverbs…whenever I stumbled over precocious political insights that seemed well beyond that which the average high school senior would be inclined to think:
"Get a hobby, Native Americans and stop asking us to take one second to reconsider our institutionalized stupidity and gleeful hand in your genocide, okay?"
"It's off Sticky Fingers, the album with the Andy Warhol cover, the one that 99 percent of hypermacho dudes who have ever owned it had no clue was a celebration of illicit men's room blow jobs."
"It's like being told that the coolest person you've ever met in your life believes in the Easter bunny and voted for Mitt."
"It's like hanging out with Matt Drudge but even less fun."
"I'll vote Republican when you pry their entitled vacuousness from my cold, dead reason."
…I didn't have to push away the image of a seventeen year old character spouting surprisingly developed judgments about a life he has barely experienced to remember that these lines were written by what I perceive is an angry middle aged peacock sitting all alone at his iMac scrutinizing his fading tail feathers. It is, in fact, the angry peacock image that underscores the creep-factor of this book.
Here's a for instance. Beaudoin presents the young reader with a less than flattering editorial perspective of his arch-villain Mr. Isley. "Dice" (as he is known to students) is a middle aged teacher that has forgotten the boundaries that should be in place between adults and students. He often shows up at parties and gatherings where he has some beer and ogles the cheerleaders. There are rumors that he has impregnated at least one student. Clearly, such conduct is very wrong and standing up against its injury makes sense.
The author's assessment and critique of "Dice's" inappropriate behavior is fair and accurate, but in light of the profane debasements, sexual or otherwise, that are strewn throughout Wise Young Fool, I'm left wondering how the ALA doesn't perceive that Beaudoin as guilty of the same inappropriate conduct. Are not the boundaries that should exist between adult and student being ignored throughout this story? Actually, it's worse. The "Mr. Isley" character isn't pretending to be a seventeen year old boy.
The truth is that if someone approached your child and spoke the words that are in this book, you'd call the cops. But since this is written and bound with a pretty "YA" label printed on its spine, it's called literature. So the theft of your child's innocence is not only permissible in this circumstance, it's celebrated.
I do not recommend this book for children between the ages of 12 to 18. I do, once again, highly recommend this book for all parents who seek affirmation that the American education system is failing our children and for all educators who have had it with State sponsored lunacy. One star because it's an unreadable mishmash of profanity and propaganda.