Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: I, Funny by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Great Main character; lots of funny jokes
Cons: Several plot points are introduced and then just dropped
Bottom Line:
Very good humor
Helps hide disappointing plot
Kids will still enjoy

Book Funny, but Plot Wimpy

I only read one James Patterson series for adults, but I love the books of Chris Grabenstein.  Since they collaborated on I Funny: A Middle School Story, I had to give it a try.  I have a feeling this is a case where the adult in me is much harsher on it than the target audience of late elementary school will be.

Jamie Grimm has been dealt a few tough blows that have landed him with his aunt, uncle and cousins.  Unfortunately, one of those cousins happens to be the class bully at the middle school Jamie now attends.

And how does Jamie deal with all this?  By comedy.  He’s so funny that he draws a crowd at a different uncle’s diner.  But when this uncle suggests Jamie try out for the local first round of the funniest kid in America contest, Jamie balks.  He’s not really that funny, is he?  Would he win?

I liked Jamie.  He was a sympathetic main character with some real flaws yet strength to face what life has dealt him.  When he was on stage, I could feel his stage fright, in fact.  Unfortunately, the rest of the cast was rather one dimensional.  I liked them and they served their place in the story, but there wasn’t much else to them.  As a kid, I know I wouldn’t have noticed, so this is a minor point.

The book is certainly funny, and I got multiple laughs out of it.  There are lots of quotes from famous comedians, but an equal number of laughs that are supposed to be Jamie’s original material.  He’s got a pretty good imagination as well, which is fun.

My problem with the book really comes down to the plot.  The main plot is predictable, but that’s not an issue for me.  My issue is the other potential plot threads or sub-plots that are introduced and then dropped without being fully developed. Again, the target audience probably wouldn’t even notice, but it bugged me to no end.  What was the point in bring it up if you aren’t going to do anything with it?

James Patterson is known for his short chapters and fast reads.  That’s the case here again.  Add in the wonderful pen and ink illustrations by Linda Park, and the pages just fly by.  But do spend a little time on the illustrations since you’ll find some running gags and other laughs in them.

Yes, I do completely recommend I Funny: A Middle School Story for the target audience of kids.  They’ll laugh and love it and beg for more.  But adults will probably wonder why the plot didn’t live up to the promise of the dropped plot threads.

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