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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Scurvy Goonda* by Chris McCoy- young adult book review  
Scurvy Goonda
by Chris McCoy
Ages 12-14 336 pages Knopf November 2009 Hardcover    

Filled with all of the yummy bacony goodness of a triple-decker bacon, bacon, and bacon club sandwich, Scurvy Goonda, author Chris McCoy’s debut novel, is a suspenseful and humorous novel that will satisfy your appetite for a good, extremely imaginative yarn.

Teenager Ted Merritt has never outgrown his childhood imaginary friend (or “ab-com,” for abstract companion), the three-hundred-plus-year old pirate Scurvy Goonda. The pirate’s actual first name is Gordon, but as a boy Ted pronounced it as “Goonda.” Needless to say, still having an imaginary fr— er, “ab-com” when you’re in high school makes you the target of lots of ridicule and daily beatings by bullies. When you work part-time in the meat department of a grocery store, and packages of bacon and other meats wind up slashed open and partially consumed, their remnants discovered after your shift ends, as in Ted’s case, don’t expect your job to last for very long.

What Ted wants most of all is to be normal - to not attract the attention of people who taunt and bully anyone who’s different and to maybe have a shot at getting to know his crush, Caroline Waltz, a little better. He wants the upcoming school year to be a better one, to hold more hope, and he wants his mother and grandmother (who lives at their house) to think of him as more normal.

Scurvy Goonda is the best friend Ted’s ever had, though, and it isn’t easy to get rid of him. To make matters worse, Ted’s younger sister, Adeline (who has an ab-com named Eric, a panda that walks on its front legs and has a bonsai tree growing out of the top of its head), thinks any efforts Ted makes to get rid of Scurvy Goonda are mean. Ted doesn’t want Adeline to feel bad or to lose her love for him, but he decides he has to do something.

The “something” he decides to do is to agree to see a psychologist, who recommends that Ted’s mother put a special band-aid - a placebo - on his arm to make him think he’s getting medicine that will help drive any thoughts of Scurvy Goonda from his mind. The optimal end result is that, supposedly, any desire Ted still feels to have an ab-com will eventually diminish down to nothing, and that will be the end of Scurvy Goonda.

Though Scurvy Goonda tries to stop Ted and doesn’t leave immediately, he fairly soon develops a skin condition, green bumps all over his body. Ted doesn’t like his old friend to suffer so, but he tries to tell himself that the pirate is really only in his imagination, despite the fact that Adeline can see Scurvy; she admonishes Ted for trying to get rid off the pirate. Eventually, Scurvy Goonda leaves, walking away down a road, seemingly forever - that is, until Ted’s old boss phones him up, complaining that he thinks Ted is responsible for vandalizing his store.

Ted decides to check out his old boss’s claims for himself, and sees several packages of bacon all over the meat section that look as if they’ve been cut open. Gobs and bits of raw bacon are everywhere. Ted follows the trail of bacon bits to a machine in the back of the store called the Crusher, thinking that Scurvy Goonda never left at all but has hidden out in the store, close to a ready supply of his favorite food.

His old boss hears Ted, and the teen hides inside the Crusher - a box compacter. Ted sees a bright white light at the bottom of the compacter, and a hinged metal door.. His old boss starts the Crusher up, thinking that if Ted or anyone else is hiding inside, he’d yell out and give himself away.

Ted doesn’t yell. Instead, he goes through the hinged door and falls like Alice - not into Wonderland, but a place called Middlemost. Scurvy Goonda has told him that Middlemost is where he would go, if Ted wanted to find him. Under an adhesive star that Ted’s father stuck to his ceiling when he formed constellations there when Ted was a boy, he saw the word “HERE.” Ted believes that’s a clue to discovering where his father went, at the approximate time Scurvy Goonda first entered Ted’s life.

During the beginning chapters of Scurvy Goonda, while I was intrigued by the story idea and the plot and Scurvy’s obsession with bacon, I was also kind of creeped out by Ted’s having an ab-com at his age. But, as I read on and realized that Scurvy Goonda had an existence that wasn’t based upon Ted’s imagination, I got into the book more and more. When he goes to Middlemost, the novel really picks up, and the adventures he has there are pretty cool and fun to read about.

I especially liked the oddity of the President of Middlemost being Persephone skeleton, the old parrot that used to sit on Scurvy Goonda’s shoulder. Her desire to first marry Scurvy Goonda and then invade the Earth makes the plot go in an entirely different direction. Those twists and turns will make you want to add this highly imaginative novel to your reading lists.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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