Title: The Detention Club
Author: David Yoo
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
May Contain Spoilers
The best worst thing to happen to Peter Lee?
Peter and his best friend, Drew, used to be so cool (or, at least, not total outcasts) in elementary school. But now they’re in middle school, where their extensive mica collection and prowess at kickball have earned them a new label: losers. Then Peter attracts the unwanted attention of the school bullies, and his plan to become popular through his older sister, the practically perfect Sunny, backfires.
Things go from bad to worse when Peter gets detention. But what at first seems to spell his utter doom turns into an unlikely opportunity for making friends and influencing people. . . .
The Detention Club is a fun book, but as I read along, I realized that I am not the target market. This is a boy book that will actually appeal to boys, and because it’s written from such an authentic male perspective, I occasionally wanted to grab protagonist Peter and choke him. Truthfully, it was more than occasionally, and I found his pre-teen personality grating. He could be equal parts annoying, clueless, and selfish. Then he’d have a rare moment of insight and realize that he’s being a twerp, so it’s hard to dislike him. I could totally sympathize with his older sister, though – I wouldn’t have wanted him for a brother, either!
Peter is basking in the glory of his elementary school days, where he and his best buddy, Drew, were the cool kids in class. Now that he’s in middle school, he has one awful realization – he’s not cool any more. In fact, he’s a nerd. His predilection for collecting things, any little thing, really, has branded him a loser. He and Drew are standing on the outside of the popularity club, and it’s not a position that either one of them likes to be in. Peter is determined to regain his social status, and he cooks up one scheme after another to get himself noticed and elevated back into the social circles he longs to be in. Instead, the plans backfire, leaving him looking even nerdier than before. While his old friends have reconnected in more mature relationships, he sits on the sidelines and longs to be invited to parties and to just hang out with them. Poor Peter. I felt sorry for him to a degree, but as he continues to dream up ways to make himself look cool, he just brought more isolation to himself.
When he finally ends up in detention, the world of Peter Lee changes drastically. He makes friends with the two bullies who were making his life miserable, and he suddenly sees an opportunity to use them as his ticket to the big time. Until things don’t work out quite as he planned – again!
The Detention Club is a funny read. It’s strength comes from Peter’s unwavering belief that he’s always doing the right thing – even when he knows that he’s not. He manages to put a spin on everything so that he doesn’t have second thoughts about some of the stupid, and I mean stupid, things that he’s going. He jeopardizes his friendship with Drew, his grades are awful to say the least, and his behavior puts him at odds with his teachers and his family. Mixed into this mine field that he’s created is a mystery for him to solve, too. Someone is stealing from the kids at school, and fingers are slowly starting to point to Peter. He is a lot of things, but a thief isn’t one of them, so he tries to absolve himself of the crimes, in addition to remaking himself into one of the cool kids.
I liked how Peter’s relationship changed with his older sister. Sunny seems to have it all. Brains, drive, the determination to succeed. But Sunny is hiding insecurities and unhappiness too, and I was pleasantly surprised when Peter stepped up to bat for her. He was surprised, too! That is one of things that I did like about Peter. When the chips were down, he was there for the people he cared about. Even if he didn’t want to be.
The Detention Club should appeal to middle grade boys, and they will empathize with Peter and his misadventures. There’s a lot of humor here, and despite my occasional annoyance with the protagonist, he is very relatable.
Review copy provided by publisher