By Michael Simmons
(Roaring Brook Press, Hardcover, 9780761318859, 176pp.)
Publication Date: April 2003
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Fifteen-year-old Brett Gerson is the kind of kid you love to hate: smug, arrogant, and filthy rich. When his dad is jailed for insider trading, Brett loses the mansion, the Mercedes, and his beloved stereo--and is forced to take a summer job assisting the man who used to clean his family's swimming pool. Told in the first person and set in a fictional California town, Pool Boy marks the debut of a gifted writer for young adults--and an almost equally engaging and infuriating anti-hero.
Michael Simmons lives in New York City. This is his first young adult novel.
Booklist It's the elemental YA novel: the furious teen betrayed by adults has to make his own way. But this story is taken from today's business headlines. Brett's stockbroker dad is in jail for insider training, and the family is suddenly broke and disgraced. Unlike most stories about parents in prison, this first novel focuses on a spoiled brat, sorry that he won't be getting a car for his upcoming sixteenth birthday; bitter because, instead of sunning himself by the family pool, he has to spend the summer cleaning the pools of his former neighbors. He knows he is a brat and he glories in it. He is ugly to his dad when he is forced to visit him in prison, and he hurts his too-perfect mom. Of course, he learns his lesson, suffers real loss, and comes to know about backbreaking work and about forgiveness. What's best here is the teen's authentic, contemporary first-person voice, obnoxious in its self-absorption, funny in its self-mockery, and also vulnerable when real sadness blows the boy's cover. School Library Journal Brett, 15, had it all: good looks, a winning personality, and a lot of money. That is, until the police busted his dad for money laundering and insider trading. Now the teen's posh lifestyle-like his dad-has gone to the dogs, and Brett, his mom, and sister move into their great-aunt's humble two-story on the other side of the tracks. Forced to help out in making ends meet, the teen takes a job cleaning pools in his old upscale neighborhood. With surprisingly sharp insight for a first novel, Simmons doesn't bat an eyelash in forcing his arrogantly smug antihero to combat a truckload of issues involving his new life in a lower-income bracket. Dubbed "pool boy" by the new owners of the house that his own family lost, Brett stubbornly comes to terms with forgiving his father for being a criminal and losing the family fortune. What results from Simmons's dead-on characterization in this well-told first-person account is a humorous yet thought-provoking journey through the life and mind of a self-centered young man who must now reconsider his own sense of responsibility to rebuild the life torn apart by his father's crimes.