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5…4…3…2…1

In Owen Matthews's book The Fixes, a boy finds an explosive solution to his problems.

5…4…3…2…1

BOOK REPORT for The Fixes by Owen Matthews

Cover Story: I Feel Like I'm Missing Something
Drinking Buddy: Dud
Testosterone Level: Explosive
Talky Talk: Da Bomb
Bonus Factors: Needle Exchange
Bromance Status: Wanted Poster

Cover Story: I Feel Like I'm Missing Something

It's an interesting cover, but has little to do with the plot. The words on the white parts are too faint to make out, so I'm not sure what the document is supposed to be.

The Deal:

Eric Connelly's father expects a lot of him. To get good grades, to stay out of trouble, and to be elected President of the United States. Seriously. His grandfather was mayor, his father is a senator, and someday Eric will live in the White House. His dad has it all planned out. Not a lot of pressure on Eric.

Eric, however, isn't excited about this plan for his life. For one thing, he's gay, something he's never shared with anyone. And he's not really on board with having to be the best student in the best school in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in California. Nor is he enjoying the boring summer job his father lined up for him at a law firm.

Enter Jordan, the irrepressible bad boy. He needs a tutor, and Eric fits the bill. Soon Jordan is convincing Eric to ditch his job and hang out with him. Along with Paige, Eric's ex-girlfriend who still doesn't doesn't know about the gay thing; and Haley, a girl who lives in the shadow of her supermodel sister, the quartet raises hell. Heck, they're all rich and white, they can buy their way out of anything.

And Jordan understands E--he goes by E now--like no one else does. And maybe even loves him, at least much as a guy like Jordan is capable of love.

But Jordan has exciting plans for the summer. Revenge. Oh, not anything petty. Maybe let everyone know the name of the guy who was trying to slip a girl a roofie at a party. Or fighting back against the local high-end store's anti-homeless policy. This is underground rebellion, fighting the system in a way only the rich can hope to accomplish. It's sure a lot more exciting than trying to change the world through social reform and grassroots action.

But Jordan isn't a guy who knows the meaning of the words 'quit', 'enough' or 'I think you might have killed that guy.' And no one is going to stand in his way. Not the police, not his friends, not even E.

Things are about to get real.

Drinking Buddy: Dud

I wanted to like E. I truly did. We've all been overwhelmed by the attentions of a popular person, been constricted by our parents' expectations, and intoxicated with the allure of misbehavior. But E is a little too obedient and fearful for my taste. When everyone is confessing a secret, he doesn't come out, even though it could mean Paige would stop torturing herself about why E dumped her. When Jordan makes E be the wheelman for a getaway, he doesn't object. And when Jordan's plans start to get insane, when his stunts are so over-the-top that Haley and Paige may be in danger, E just sits there, working out the design flaws in Jordan's pressure cooker bomb.

Testosterone Level: Explosive

At first, Jordan just seems like a frustrated rich kid, trying to help his friends live a little and get back at society. E truly finds running with the gang more exciting than shuffling papers in some law office. And every time someone suggests he tone things down a bit, Jordan reminds them that they're rich, and wealthy people never pay for their crimes.

But Jordan is not building bombs for an exciting Fourth of July. He's somewhat flipped, and we know at least one of the principal characters is not going to make it out alive (not a spoiler, it says so on page 7). Is Jordan losing his mind, or has he always been crazy and his friends just refused to see it?

As for Jordan and E's love affair, it's passionate, but devoid of emotion, at least on Jordan's part. He was with Haley to begin with, and I got the impression he wasn't so much gay or bisexual, as just a guy who really enjoys sex in all its forms.

Talky Talk: Da Bomb

This was an extremely long book (over 500 pages), but most chapters were only a few paragraphs, if not a few sentences. Most of the book is from E's point of view, but sometimes we hear from Haley and Paige. This is one of those dangerous 'just one more chapter' books that draw you in until you find yourself walking a hotel treadmill at 5:00 AM because the rest of your family is sleeping and you have to know how it ends.

Despite the noodly main character, this was an intense book with a lot of edge-of-your-seat intensity. It's a quick read, and I found myself skipping ahead to see what happened, even though E kind of spoils the ending in the first few pages. 

In Matthews's previous book, he also includes an unlikable but redeemable main character, and he pulls it off again in The Fixes. You could burn through this one in a couple of days

Bonus Factors: Needle Exchange

So when E is fired from his internship for chronic absenteeism, Jordan gets him a job at a needle exchange place. It's a clinic where drug users can exchange dirty needles for sterile ones, thus stemming the spread of HIV and hepatitis. E is both impressed and horrified at this underfunded and understaffed place, and actually begins to enjoy his work. And then there's Liam, the guy who runs the place. A nice guy. A gay guy. Someone who could be a friend.

But E already has friends.

Bromance Status: Wanted Poster

When I see your picture up on the list of banned books/award-nominated books, I can say that I read you when you were just an ARC.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher. No money or beer exchanged hands. If you want to know more, talk to my lawyer. The Fixes will be available on August 30th.

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.