eARC REVIEW: Mr. 60% by Clete Barrett Smith

Title: Mr. 60%

Author: Clete Barrett Smith

Expected Publication Date: August 22, 2017

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Rating: ★★★★/ 4 Stars

Genre: Contemporary YA

Matt Nolan is the high school drug dealer, deadbeat, and soon-to-be dropout according to everyone at his school. His vice principal is counting down the days until Mr. 60% (aka Matt) finally flunks out and is no longer his problem. What no one knows is the only reason Matt sells drugs is to take care of his uncle Jack, who is dying of cancer.

Meet Amanda. The overly cheerful social outcast whose optimism makes Matt want to hurl. Stuck as partners during an after-school club (mandatory for Matt), it’s only a matter of time until Amanda discovers Matt’s secret. But Amanda is used to dealing with heartbreak, and she’s determined to help Matt find a way to give life 100 percent.

—I received an electronic advanced readers’ copy from NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.—

I find it kind of deceiving, the way the blurb is written. To me, it felt like there would be dual point of views or something of the like about both Matt and Amanda. But no. This book revolves entirely about Matt which I liked.

Matt is the caretaker of his uncle Jack, who is dying of cancer. Due to this very reason, Matt’s sole purpose in doing anything is to provide Jack with any mean necessary in making his life… or what remains of it… as painless as the doctor prescribed. Hence, Matt’s presence in school is only important so he’d get access to his customers: the students. He does just enough in classes so that the horrible Vice Principal can’t kick him out of school. A new snag comes his way when seniors are required to participate in an after-school club in order to graduate. Matt is forced to join Amanda’s team of one.

Here is where I myself was unsure. Amanda is an outcast because she’s fat. She is hinted to have been bullied before by her classmates, but now they ignore her. The only things people say about Amanda are about her weight, if they talk about her at all. Even Matt upon seeing Amanda, comments on how her t-shirt had a print that was not made to be stretched out on such a big of a size. That’s the only thing Matt thinks of Amanda’s body. This book doesn’t really give us much of Amanda besides her role in helping Matt with Jack. There is not romance or fixing-up of Amanda’s life. Her attitude about her weight was alright, I suppose, since she makes fun of it at times and doesn’t mind that a really young girl asks her how she got so “big.” It didn’t seem to me that Amanda’s purpose in this book was beyond helping Matt realize that he needs to have friends. Which I didn’t mind. She had her own goals and such. But beyond that, I didn’t feel much of an attachment to her.

It’s Matt who’s really the focus of the book. He absolutely broke my heart in such a short period of time. Seeing how he’d had to scrub so much of himself to give to Jack in aiding him with his health made me ache for the kid. It is in small details of Jack and Matt’s relationship that I saw how kind Matt is. Jack himself is a lovely man whose last months took so much of his liveliness although he tries his best to maintain a level of goofiness around Matt and Amanda… the only people he interacts with basically.

I liked that this book had so much heart although it was very short. The end felt very good too and at a nice place. It didn’t try very hard at teaching anyone any lesson, it simply told the story of this boy’s relationship with his uncle through his uncle’s last months on earth. My only problem is with the cover. It’s so ugly.

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