Thursday, 6 September 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Book Review of Don't Call Me Ishmael by Michael Gerard Bauer

14-year-old Ishmael Leseur is a loser. He can't help it - how is he meant to survive with a name that school bully Barry Bagsley can twist into Fishtail Le Sewer, Fishwhale Manure, or even worse combinations? He's so fed up of being bullied that when the nerdy James Scobie moves to his school, he almost welcomes the arrival of a new target for Bagsley's scorn. But Scobie doesn't fear anything. With his help, and that of Miss Tarango, the new English teacher, can Ishmael learn to stand up for himself?

This is simultaneously one of the funniest and most heartwarming books I've read in years. Partly that's down to Ishmael's wonderful narration, which had me in stitches for much of the book, right from when he first tells us how he came to be christened Ishmael (yes, his parents were fans of the book you're thinking of!) until the wonderful ending. Partly, it's because it's also really successful in putting across the main themes of the novel - dealing with bullying and the power of words - without ever seeming preachy.

Added to the central pairing of Ishmael and Scobie, we get a host of great supporting characters. I loved Miss Tarango, I thought the girl Ishmael fell for was beautifully portrayed, while sci-fi and fantasy fan Bill Kingsley nearly steals the spotlight at several points, especially towards the end. You'd never believe that high-school debating could be as entertaining as Michael Gerard Bauer makes it in some of the best scenes here.

I hadn't heard of this before picking it up on Kindle (I have a feeling it was a 99p Daily Deal a while ago!) but am really keen to read more of Bauer's work in the future. I've just found out there are two sequels to this one which will definitely be going onto my 'to read' list.

Really highly recommended.

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