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You’ll Screw It Up

Jake Gerhardt shows us the soul-scarring ins and outs of eighth grade romance in My Future Ex-Girlfriend.

You’ll Screw It Up

BOOK REPORT for My Future Ex-Girlfriend by Jake Gerhardt

Cover Story: Check This Box
Drinking Buddy: Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
Testosterone Level: Puberty
Talky Talk: Accurate, Unfortunately
Bonus Factors: Dating Out of Your League
Bromance Status: On To High School

Cover Story: Check This Box

Yes, the old middle school love note. And we still get to imagine what the kids' faces look like. But not their hands.

The Deal:

Three eighth grade boys, Sam, the geeky class clown, Duke, the intellectual snob, and Chollie, the self-proclaimed dumb jock, have all landed their dream girlfriends. Seriously. Things are great. Except, they're kind of not. Sam is nervous he'll screw everything up, Chollie's older brother keeps giving him...advice, and Duke is happy he finally found a woman worthy of someone such as he. The guys were successful in finding girlfriend, it's the keeping them that's hard.

Told in alternating points of view, including the girlfriends', as well as occasional e-mails and writing assignments.

Drinking Buddy: Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

I really liked two of the characters. Sam is surprised that his girlfriend, Erica, would actually date a dork like him, but he has no idea what to do now. Chollie is suffering a crisis of self-doubt: not only does he feel kind of dumb compared to his girlfriend, Miranda, he's increasingly pressured to excel on the school baseball team. That's a lot for a young guy, you know?

But then there's Duke. Duke is smarter than everyone he knows, including his teachers, the principal, his parents, and you, the reader. And he's not subtle about it. He'll start off writing assignments buy literally calling his teacher incompetent. He uses footnotes so the reader will understand what his big words mean (okay, 'pulchritudinous' threw me). He's so happy that his girlfriend Sharon (who is also Sam's sister) is almost his intellectual equal.

It's very hard to write an unlikable character, and the author went overboard here. Duke isn't an awkward guy who doesn't realize he's coming off as obnoxious. And he's not a smart kid who overcompensates for not being athletic or cool. He's a pretentious jerk. If I had known him in eighth grade, I would have thrown down my D20 and cracked him over the head with my clarinet case.

Testosterone Level: Puberty

Ah, middle school. The only thing more terrifying than having a girl turn you down is one liking you back. And these guys show it. Sam is tormented by his older sister's boyfriend, who keeps predicting doom for him and Erica. His buddy, Foxxy, just got dumped, and he's monopolizing Sam and Erica's time with tales of his misery. And Sam just has the worst luck trying to act cool. He once spends a movie couch date trying to hold in a fart, while Erica wonders why he won't snuggle.

Chollie, whose unemployed older brother is feeding him romance advice, keeps waiting for the moment when he'll screw everything up. It's funny to watch him accidentally make the same plans as Duke, and succeed where Duke fails.

And then there's Duke. Funny, how your girlfriend's mother doesn't appreciate it when you correct her grammar.

Talky Talk: Accurate, Unfortunately

While Sharon, Erica, and Miranda don't do a lot of first-person narration, it's hilarious to see how they react to the affections of their dorky yet sincere boyfriends as they mess everything up, and big time.

Hell, that's what junior high is for. Once you reach high school, you can forget everything that happened before, romantic or academic. That's why it's best to get started on your romantic disasters early on.

Like when you finally get up the courage to ask out Nancy S to the seventh grade dance, but she says she's not allowed to date, but your buddy tells you she was just making excuses. Or when in eighth grade you can tell Tracy C likes you, but she's so cute that you never ask her out until you're both seniors in college and she turns you down.

Yeah. Fun times.

Bonus Factors: Dating Out of Your League

No matter how nerdy you are, you will occasionally gain the notice of someone cooler, more intelligent, and better looking than you. Sam and Chollie are aware of this and live in fear of the day their dates will wise up. Duke, however, is unaware that Sharon is having second thoughts and continues to try to 'improve' her.

Bromance Status: On To High School

The book was a great reminder of what it was like trying to date in middle school...but I enjoyed it anyway.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor beer 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.