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Van De Ruit, John. Spud.

VAN DE RUIT, John. Spud. Penguin, Razorbill. 336p. c2007 1-59514-170-5. $16.99. S

Alexander McCall Smith, author of the The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, touts this book as "South Africa's Catcher in the Rye." Actually, the novel is more about the antics of a group of boarding school boys in South Africa at the end of the apartheid era, when the citizens were wondering whether the government was descending into chaos or a racial war was impending. These momentous events have little effect on the characters of this book except as an occasional topic of conversation. They spend most of their time horsing around in their dorms, playing really mean tricks on each other, speculating about sex, and sneaking out for midnight swims in the middle of winter. Some of the boys are horrible bullies. Some are plain crazy. Others are natural victims. Spud has acquired his nickname, as he will frankly tell you, because at the age of 14, his balls have not descended and he has no hair on his testicles. Nevertheless, somewhat improbably, he becomes entangled with two different, miraculous girls. By the end of the school year, he decides he likes it at boarding school, even as a scholarship student.

The next book in this series is to be titled Spud: The Madness Continues, in which, one supposes, Spud's testosterone levels will kick in and he will, perhaps, have to find a new nickname. Any boy considering boarding school might well be terrified after reading this novel. It is funny and the characters, including Spud's parents and grandmother, are wildly eccentric. Presumably, the theme is, if you can survive the rough-and-tumble of boarding school, you can eventually conquer the world. Myrna Marler, Assoc. Prof. of English, BYU, Laie, HI

S--Recommended for senior high school students.
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Author:Marler, Myrna
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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