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Life Imitates Art

If you can't be normal, you might as well be an Original Fake.

Life Imitates Art

BOOK REPORT for Original Fake by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Cover Story: And Away We Go
Drinking Buddy: All The Booze
Testosterone Level: Epic
Talky Talk: One Crazy Summer
Bonus Factors: Crazy Family, Bromance
Bromance Status: I'm Growing Old

Cover Story: And Away We Go

This is a partial graphic novel: several times a chapter the artist takes over for a few scenes. This is a great action shot of Frankie, his skateboard, his sister Lou (inside flap), and David and Rory (back cover).


The Deal:

Frankie Neumann just doesn't fit in with his family. His parents are wild and crazy performers, his sister, Lou, is an up and coming actress and artist, while Frankie...he skateboards. He draws. He makes designs with the pepperonis at the pizza place where he works. He's not like the rest of his family.

But he is talented. Heck, he once applied for an art camp scholarship. But then Lou copied his work and beat Frankie. And his parents accused HIM of plagiarism! Now Lou is a popular drama kid and Frankie, he's nothing but a sullen ball of resentment.

But one day Frankie is approached by his sexy classmate Rory and her skirt-wearing cousin David. It seems that anonymous street artist Uncle Epic is coming to town. And he's literally their uncle. How would Frankie like to join the team and help out this underground legend who he's idolized for years? Frankie has what it takes (And a delivery truck. They need his truck). Suddenly Frankie is working for his unseen hero and impressing the heck out of Rory.

Plus the arrival of Uncle Epic has inspired a lot of copycats, including a flash mob that got violently out of hand. Wait...Frankie recognizes one of the girls on the YouTube footage. Lou?

Frankie now has the perfect tools for revenge on his little sister. This is going to be, as they say, Epic.

Drinking Buddy: All the Booze

Frankie is a genuinely relatable character. We've all had periods where we felt like we didn't belong, our parents didn't understand, and that we weren't appreciated by anyone. Wouldn't it have been something if our personal hero showed up (or sent us a message) asking for our help? If the cute girl suddenly noticed us? If people were talking about our projects?

Frankie is kind of living the life a lot of us fantasized about during dark periods. It was fun living vicariously through him for three hundred pages.

Testosterone Level: Epic

Uncle Epic is a guy who likes his work to be noticed (though no one has ever seen his face). Frankie finds himself corralling sheep in his van, painting broken TVs, and dressing up a giant statue of Betty Crocker. Rory is impressed with his abilities, and quickly shows him another fun thing people can do in the back of a van. Frankie is inspired enough to start making some street art of his own, frightening ghoul statues that hint to his sister and her friends that they're not as anonymous as they think.

But you know what's coming. Frankie's normally laid-back parents want to know where he goes all night. Lou suspects, and can't be trusted to keep her mouth shut. Things with Rory are going great, but she has a reputation as a user; Frankie has seen her hurt guys before. And the Uncle Epic crew are only one step ahead of the authorities, who blame Epic for some of the violent actions of Lou's friends. If they get caught, it's not like Epic is going to come out of hiding to bail them out.

At what price art?

Talky Talk: One Crazy Summer

Yes, the book took place during the school year, but we don't always get what we want.

This book was a great piece of escapism, and a very quick read. The drawings are great, they do not simply enhance the story, but are a critical part of the plot. While my suspension of disbelief sometimes was strained, this was the sort of whacky caper story that will appeal to high school kids who might look at TPing a house as a phenomenal prank.

I did have a few issues with Frankie's family. The intense mutual dislike between himself and Lou left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Also, every time Frankie was busted for breaking curfew, he'd be told he was grounded forever. And the next night, he'd go out again, so the stakes weren't really that high. And Frankie works on his projects in an abandoned ballroom in his family's Victorian mansion, a house so huge that no one even remembers that room exists. A tad convenient, no?

Still, when you're truly enjoying a chase scene, you don't stop and niggle over every little stretch of the imagination. This was a very fun read, and I'm a little jealous of the main character.

Bonus Factor: Crazy Family

So in addition to Lou, Frankie's hipster, tutu-wearing sister, there are his parents. His mother, who is a Frank Sinatra impersonator, and his father, who plays Dr. Frank N. Furter in the local production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Frankie (now you know where his name came from) finds it hard to be chagrined when being dressed down by a man in a leather bustier and hose. Still, there are worse families one could be in, and Frankie longs to be one of this oddball crowd.

Bonus Factor: Bromance

Frankie quickly makes friends with David, Rory's male cousin who only ever wears skirts. And never the same one twice. He helps Frankie with his own side projects and warns him that Rory is going to end up hurting him. Not like David. David would never use Frankie like that. So maybe...

Frankie thinks about it. David is cute, funny, talented, and loyal. He'd make the perfect boyfriend. But the thing is, Frankie isn't gay. Not even a little bit. And David is forced to accept a deep friendship rather than a romance.

Bromance Status: I'm Growing Old

I enjoyed you, but to tell you the truth, you've reminded me of how long it's been since I went cruising with my friends, armed with slingshots and paintballs. Good times, but gone times.

Full disclosure: I received neither money nor a large two-topping deep dish with extra cheese for writing this review.

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.