Monday, February 20, 2017

2016 Cybils MG Finalist: Slacker by Gordon Korman

Cameron Boxer, 13, has worked hard to perfect his lifestyle - exerting as little energy and effort as possible on anything this isn't related to gaming and exerting maximum energy and effort on gaming for hours on end, all in service of his goal - winning the Rule the World tournament and defeating his nemesis the Evil McKillpeople.

Only when dinner starts to burn and the house fills with smoke, and Cameron is so wrapped up in the online game he's playing in the basement with his online friends that he doesn't noticed what happening round him until the fire department arrives, do his parents finally put their foot down. It is time for Cameron to put down the controller and get involved in real life.

But if gaming is your life, there's only one thing to do - enlist the help of your friends Pavel and Chuck to help you create a new school club by hacking into the school's website. And so the Positive Action Group or P.A.G., is created complete with mission statement and slogan "because helping others is an education in itself" and Cameron is its president. The phony P.A.G. thrills his parents and puts Cameron back into the gaming business.

The only problem is that the P.A.G. catches the eye of Daphne Leibowitz who has the perfect cause for the club to embrace. Her idea is to capture the aging beaver that has been eating every wooden thing in sight all over town after being left behind when younger beavers moved, and building a nice new beaver lodge for it. And Daphne isn't the only one enthusiastic about the club. Mr. Fanshaw, the guidance counselor, hopes the club will help sell the Fall Charity Raffle tickets, most of them still sitting in his desk. Then, Freeland "String" McBean, star football player but failing student, hopes being part of the club will help get him back on the team. Even Cameron's younger sister Melody has joined the club -to get under his skin? Maybe. But not everyone is welcoming this new club, certainly not the Friends of Fuzzy, the high school do-gooders club, whose president Jennifer isn't happy to have middle school competition.

And, naturally, everyone expects Cameron to act like the president of the club and lead them, all of which proves to seriously cut into his gaming time instead of increasing it.

Slacker is, for the most part, a very amusing novel. It is told in the first person from a multiple of perspectives, among them Cameron, Pavel, Daphne, String, Mr. Fanshaw, and Jennifer, president of the Friends of Fuzzy. Why so many narrators? Each one has their own motive for using the Positive Action Group to achieve their own goal. It sounds confusing, but it really isn't, mainly because Korman is a genius at the art of multi-perspective novels. And he does it all with lots of humor.

Interestingly, I found that I did not like the mean, self-serving Cameron from beginning to end, even though he is finally able to make himself step up to the plate when it counts. I found him to be a rather thin character in comparison to the other characters in the novel. And yet, even though I thought Cameron's obsessive gaming annoying, it is just the kind of book that middle graders will really love. It's not heavy or sad or sentimental, and it gets Cam out of the basement and away from the screens, so I guess you could call it an eye-opening story for him (and others like him), but, personally, I think it's just a lot of good, clean (but improbable) fun.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL


  1. The cover is appealing, and I’m sure you are right about youngsters enjoying the story, but it doesn’t light my fire. And why should it considering I’m 9 + 60 so it is hardly intended for me. :-)

  2. I also thought Cameron was kind of a plain character. I love Gordon Korman's earlier works and thought Slacker was fun and enjoyable for the target audience, but not Korman's best work.


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