________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 13 . . . . February 16, 2007


Exploits of a Reluctant (But Extremely Goodlooking) Hero.

Maureen Fergus.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2007.
215 pp., pbk. & cl., $8.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (cl.).
ISBN 978-55453-025-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-55453-024-3 (cl.).

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Pam Klassen-Dueck.

**** /4


This evening, a bunch of us got together to talk strategy for the city council meeting.

“They need to know this means real food in the mouths of real people. People like me,” I said, gesturing to myself. “People like her,” I said, resting my hands on the shoulders of the exotic dancer Honey, who was wearing a pink angora sweater that fit like a tube sock. Then I didn’t say anything, because suddenly, I couldn’t think of anything but how fluffy that angora felt between my fingers. I stood there in tongue-tied silence until Jerry walked over, pried my hands off Honey’s shoulders and nominated me to be one of the speakers at the council meeting.


Meet our reluctant (but extremely goodlooking) hero, who happens to be the sole heir to his grandfather’s plumbing company, The House of Toilets. He is obsessed with fried chicken, sex, candy, sex, boiled wieners, and sex. And did we mention sex? When The House of Toilets falls into jeopardy, his family moves from Regina to Winnipeg to save the flagship store. Unfortunately, our hero swiftly lands in hot water, as he is caught stealing petty cash from the assistant manager’s office. His punishment: Volunteer at the Holy Light Mission, a soup kitchen located near The House of Toilets. Instead of reforming his ways, however, he ends up in even more trouble due to a prank gone awry and, as a result, finds himself in the middle of a war between the group Business in Support of Business, of which his father is a member, and the Holy Light Mission, which the BISOB perceives as a threat to patron support of their businesses. Our disinclined hero finds that he must overcome his self-centered ways in order to save the Holy Light Mission …… and his own butt!

     Exploits is the current male answer to the girls’ genre of the snarky, smart diary, such as Susan Juby’s Alice, I Think and Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging. The hero of Exploits assures us that the only reason he keeps an oral diary is because his mother has ordered him to do so in order to curb his excessive verbal energy. The result is page after page of observations about food, sex, and bullies who must be reported. In a particularly funny example, he comments on his mother’s breast-feeding demonstration model: “It’s not the most alluring breast in the world, because it’s perched on a metal stick, but it’s still a breast, so I’ve been gazing at it in secret whenever possible. I’ve even tried stroking it in order to practice my technique, but since it’s cold, hard plastic, I don’t think the skills I’ve developed are going to come in handy when I’m dating live women.” With many more ‘I can’t believe he just said that!’ moments, Exploits is an unusual and entertaining look into the psyche of a teenaged boy.

     Our hero, who remains nameless, is narcissistic, offensive, and socially inept. In a typical example of his bizarre behaviour, he buys for his hot psychologist a Christmas present like no other: “a mug [……] that says, ‘DOCTORS DO IT CLINICALLY’” that is filled with “a pair of nude pantyhose and a tube of Passion Fever lipstick.” However, the boy remains extremely likeable throughout the book because he is a comical, intelligent character who, by the novel’s end, develops a social conscience (although he advises his audience that he remains a porn devotee!). Essentially, our hero comes across as a very real, very believable Grade 7 boy.

     This book is not just effective because it is laugh-out-loud funny, although the protagonist’s wit alone should be enough to warrant the book’s status as a hit. Exploits has a soul, and that is what makes the novel an absorbing read. In particular, Fergus’ effective use of humour draws the reader’s sympathy toward her narrative’s cause: To encourage society’s compassionate treatment of those who are less fortunate. For instance, the scene featuring our hero’s discovery that one of his closest friends relies on the services of the Holy Light Mission is heartbreakingly realistic. While at the mission, the hero chatters away, making fun of the food, and does not guess his friend’s real reason for being there; in the meantime, his friend simply picks up his food tray and walks away without looking back. The effect of this scene is devastating. The novel’s emphasis that anyone might need to use a soup kitchen one day (even you) is made crystal clear without ever sounding preachy or saccharine.

     Unfortunately, the book’s cover art (which features a sketch of a bucket of chicken, a cassette tape, and a newspaper) will not attract readers. However, for middle schoolers who overlook the modest cover, a smart and hilarious tale awaits. Exploits will appeal to well-read teenaged boys and to girls who want an honest insight into a guy’s mind!

Highly Recommended.

Pam Klassen-Dueck is a soon-to-be Middle Years teacher in Altona, MB.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.