On September 29, a newly-expanded Young Adult Book Club (welcome, new members!) enjoyed a lively discussion of KL Going’s King of the Screwups. We had a range of opinions on this read. (Quick spoiler alert: I’m writing so those of you who have read the book can follow along. If you don’t want to read referenced details, skip the section below.) Here are some main topics that came up:
- Going captured adolescent anxiety pitch-perfect in this story.
- The minor characters lacked development. All agreed that Liam’s father seemed more like a caricature of an angry, disapproving father than a real person. We felt we were kept waiting for the explanation for Liam’s mother–was there a secret that made her the way she was? The high school characters struck us as rather flat (archetypal cheerleaders, sports stars, etc.).
- Another frustration was the realism of the small town in which the story was set.
- Everyone agreed that the emotions captured in the narrative were touchingly real. Simply put, this story has heart.
- The group was evenly divided on Liam’s character. Some felt he was far too immature for an eighteen-year-old, to the extent that he wasn’t believable. The others felt he was a product of his circumstances, and that kids mature at different rates. The consensus was that love him or hate him, Liam lives in a distorted world. When reading, we found we had to work to separate truth from Liam’s worldview. It was a powerful technique to allow the reader to relate to the character.
- We discussed how the gender of writers might affect young adult literature.
- Everyone was satisfied that Liam and Darlene did not begin a great romance.
- The overall theme we agreed on was coming of age and exploring different models of success.
- There were several moments of humor that we enjoyed.
- Our favorite character was Auncle Pete. We noted the alternative model of masculinity he provided in contrast to Liam’s father.
If you read King of the Screwups, please share your thoughts in the comments!