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Lifestyles of the Rich and Awesome

A review of David Iserson's Firecracker, in which Mandy overuses the word "asshole" but means it in the best possible way.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Awesome

BOOK REPORT for Firecracker by David Iserson

Cover Story: Obnoxiously Awesome
BFF Charm: Hell Yeah!
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Fucking Straight Up
Bonus Factors: Eccentric Rich People, Kickass Gramps, Book Trailer
Relationship Status: Two Assholes of a Feather

Cover Story: Obnoxiously Awesome

This cover is LOUD, and for the love of argyle, THOSE STOCKINGS. But guess what? I LOVE IT. Sure, there's a headless body, but everything shown is relevant to the story. And this cover is sassy and unapologetic -- just like the book's heroine.

The Deal:

Astrid Krieger has a pretty sweet life and she knows it. Not in like an arrogant way; it's just fact. Her parents are loaded, and she's cultivated a lot of power at Bristol Academy. But when she gets kicked out of school, her parents resort to extreme measures: public education. Now Astrid's on a mission to figure out who got her expelled from Bristol -- if learning to navigate public school doesn't sidetrack her, that is.

BFF Charm: Hell Yeah!

Astrid is a firecracker; that's richspeak for "asshole". She's quick-witted, frank, and v. v. opinionated, so obvs I love her. She also doesn't care what people think -- to a point anyway, since she does care about being powerful. I usually find these fixations with high school politics silly, but Astrid is on a whole different level. Astrid is a doer, and, in her words, she "[takes] people down who need to be taken down". She's like if Veronica Mars channeled her powers into dispensing Robin Hood playground justice. And High School VMars is not a comparison I make lightly, y'all.

The only reason she doesn't score higher is because she doesn't feel like she needs any friends, which makes me a little butthurt because ASTRID PLEASE BE MY FRIEND. Astrid only has accomplices and people who serve a useful purpose. My ability to retain obscure trivia has been rendered obsolete by Wikipedia, and my compulsion to organize and strategize might be stepping on her turf, so I have no marketable skills for Astrid. Which sucks, because girlfriend lives in a defunct rocket ship (!!!) in her parents' backyard, i.e. BEST SLEEPOVERS EVERRRRRR ASTRID PLEASE TAKE MY CHARM.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Astrid has a similarly pragmatic approach to most boys. Astrid, why won't you let me vicariously swooooon!? (And why can't I stop asking this fictional character questions!?)

There's Pierre, real name Lukas (I'll let her explain that one), a Czech student whose deep infatuation with Astrid is so very not reciprocated. Maybe it's just because it's not happening to me (and also I had been in Prague a few days before I read this) that I had a soft spot for this one-sided relationship. Pierre is a well-meaning buffoon who's just wilfully oblivious to Astrid's repeated rejections. And although there's no swoon here, it's noteworthy for the LOLs it brings.

The strength of the score, however, is all due to Noah, Astrid's public school classmate. It's not about the physical (of which there's very little of, anyway) but the emotional; Noah and Astrid connect on a deep, mature level that you might not expect based on my description of the book so far. And that's the kind of swoon I really enjoy: when two people are comfortable with each other in the small moments, and not just the big ones. Because life has far more mundane moments than grand gestures, y'know?

Talky Talk: Fucking Straight Up

Astrid's style of narration does as much to establish her character as her actual words do: she cusses; she forgets things; she goes off-topic; she breaks the fourth wall; and she glosses over boring parts. In other words, it's like having a friend tell you a story. An asshole friend, but a friend nonetheless.

And even though I've yet to befriend an affluent asshole, Astrid is entirely convincing because Iserson has developed a voice strong enough to match that personality. He does such a good job of making this amalgamation of asshole characteristics infinitely more charming and likeable than it should be.

Bonus Factor: Eccentric Rich People

The Kriegers are old money, which excuses a lot of behaviour unafforded to us commoners*. Astrid's fish-out-of-water sitch emphasizes these differences, but her sense of humour and matter-of-factness save her from coming off as a snob. Here's her take on clothes:

I wore a uniform at Bristol, so all my regular clothes were mostly these complicated outfits for formal occasions. [...] I had never owned a pair of jeans, and I didn't plan on it. I am not a cowboy, a farmer, or a 1950s greaser. I just don't really get it.

She'd get along famously with Jack Donaghy, don't you think?

*At least I'm assuming you're a commoner. If not, your reading butler should omit this part.

Bonus Factor: Kickass Gramps

Astrid takes after her grandpa, so obvs I'd love him as well. Though unlike her (and, ahem, me), he has a legitimate reason for being a cranky old man since he is irrefutably two of those things already. Grandpa Krieger also has diplomatic immunity in foreign countries, which he of course abuses to shoplift candy. And he might offer your pre-teen a sip of his flask. OK, so he's not the best role model, but he's amusing as hell.

Bonus Factor: Book Trailer

When I read the blurb, I wasn't all that convinced to give this book a try. I mean, I know that I'M telling you that Astrid is sassy and awesome. But when a blurb tells me something like that, I'm instantly skeptical.

Then I saw the book trailer. And seeing as how Jake Johnson could convince me to gnaw off my own arm at the elbow, NO DOY I was sold. (Also: please don't abuse your power, Jake Johnson.)

Casting Call:

Because Lily Collins does not have a monopoly on being gorgeous and fantastically eyebrowed. Plus, this is a much better fit.

Mae Whitman as Astrid Krieger

I'm not just doing this because I LUF HIM. Swearsies.

Dylan O'Brien as Noah

This role is fairly minor, but I couldn't picture anyone else as Astrid's manchild father (even without Iserson's SNL connection).

Will Ferrell as Astrid's Dad

Relationship Status: Two Assholes of a Feather

Book, it's like you're inside my head! Except you say and do things much ballsier than I ever would (and then I wonder if the reason I'm not a bigger asshole is because I don't have the bank account for it). But you've also got enough heart and depth (and growth!) for me to consider you a friend for life.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Razorbill. I received neither money nor froyo for writing this review (dammit!). Firecracker will be available May 16.

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.