Saturday, November 19, 2016

Flat Broke by Gary Paulsen

Source of book: Audiobook from the library

This is the second book in Paulsen’s series featuring the hapless Kevin, who can’t get out of his own way. We listened to Vote earlier this year, and enjoyed it. The first book in the series, Liar, Liar appears to have gone missing (at least the audiobook version) from our local library, so we have so far just listened to the others. 

As we learned in the other books, in the first one, Kevin got himself into no end of trouble as a result of ever-escalating lies. Because of this, his parents took away his allowance, which put a serious crimp in his ability to attempt to score a date with Tina Zabinski, the world’s most beautiful girl, as far as Kevin is concerned.

This being Kevin, naturally, he sets about remedying the problem with a combination of irrational confidence, exuberance, and grandiose schemes. After all, why merely earn a living when you can be filthy rich at 14?

As in Vote, Kevin isn’t a bad guy, he’s just, well, a bit full of himself and unseasoned. Kind of like most of us were at that age. Or at least like people we knew at that age. (At 14, I had neither confidence nor chutzpah, honestly. I was square and awkward, so not much of a Kevin. And I was, as now, the responsible plodder rather than the daring schemer. But I had a friend…)

So, Kevin, lacking funds, decides to borrow a few bucks from his older sister, enlist a few friends as employees, and engage in a range of moneymaking schemes. Some of these are pretty legit: cleaning out garages for neighbors, baking cookies for college students, assisting his sister and a classmate in monetizing their skills. But his poker games seem a bit over the legal - and moral - lines. As usual, it isn’t his lack of diligence or hard work that does him in, but his failure to consider fairness to others and think through all the difficult logistical issues that get him.  

In the end, he can’t keep the balls in the air, and things fall apart. And he has to make some painful apologies. But, as always, Kevin isn’t really a bad guy, so he takes his lumps and finds success out of the lessons he learns.

We have listened to quite a few Paulsen books over the last couple of years, after discovering him through what is probably his best known book, Hatchet. His serious books in that vein are worthwhile, but his humorous works, like this one, really shine as well. Like all of the books in this series, they are fairly short, amusing, and well written. Paulsen deserves his reputation as a beloved writer.

This audiobook was performed by Joshua Swanson, who I am not familiar with, but who has a really cool last name. He does a credible job giving voice to Kevin, so I’ll make an exception from my general rule that Stephen Fry should narrate all audiobooks.


Other Gary Paulsen books reviewed on this blog:


And, just because it fits:

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