Tuesday, June 18, 2013
I received I Funny as a free galley from the publisher. The freeness of this book did not impact this review. Frankly, I have a big stack of galleys that I am trying to get through before my trip to ALA next week where I will undoubtedly pick up more free galleys.
Jamie Grimm is the class comedian, in addition to being not only the new kid, but also the kid in the wheelchair. He doesn't let that get him down, and in fact, bullies are his biggest audience, and there's no bigger bully than his adopted brother, Steve. Between dodging Steve, helping at his uncle's diner, and cracking jokes, Jamie has a pretty full life. Then he hears about The Planet's Funniest Kid Comic contest, and even though he's insanely nervous, he does it anyway and learns more about himself, his family, and his friends than he thought possible. Also, wrapped up in this story of jokes and laughs is a serious plot line, although it does not get the credit that it deserves. With black and white illustrations, plenty of jokes, and some heartfelt action, it seems that James Patterson (although more largely Chris Grabenstein) is trying to cash in on the success of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but this is one joke that just falls flat.
I have to admit that I have never made it completely through a James Patterson novel; adult, children's, written by him, mostly written by a co-author or otherwise. I tried with Maximum Ride but I found his style of taking one step forward and two steps back distracting. And I Funny is no different. Take out the repetition, pictures, and 20% of the bad jokes, and you have a 20 page book, max. You feel like the book is not going anywhere since you spend half of each two page chapter summarizing the chapter before.
Aside from the frustration, it's a very quick book. Patterson (and his legion of co-authors) writes books for those of us with short attention spans, however, I think even a fruit fly has a longer attention span than this.
Do you get the feeling that I wasn't completely blown away by this book? Parts of it are funny. Parts of it are touching. Parts of it are worth reading. But those parts do not make a whole. When boiled down, this is a good book about a positive kid overcoming his obstacles in a mostly un-sappy way, but the delivery is all wrong.
For young readers that want a funny book, full of cool illustrations, give them Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, 43 Old Cemetery Road, or one of the dozens of joke books shelved in every public library.