April 06, 2012

Hold the Pickles

by Vicki Grant
Orca Book Publishers
103 pp.

Dan Hogg, from Vicki Grant's Pigboy (Orca, 2006) is a little older but he still feels like the short, skinny guy who girls ignore and who guys think is weird.  But when his Uncle Hammy offers him $10/hour to wear a hotdog costume and handout samples of his new "Frank Lee Better" healthy hotdog, Dan grabs at the chance to make some money and eat free food, all in disguise.  Even better, the disguise makes him look taller and more muscular which is pretty important to a fifteen-year-old guy with braces, glasses and allergies.

Unfortunately, when a pretty girl approaches, Dan loses his balance (his center of gravity is a bit off, and his pickle feet are quite large) and knocks himself out.  Surprisingly, the girl, Brooke, sticks around and seems to enjoy chatting him up.  But, with another fall after an altercation with the nasty Cupcake Katie (who was no piece of cake), Brooke is nowhere to be found.  Then an angry guy in blue shows up, and Brooke begs Dan to help her evade Blue Boy.  Another fall, this time onto Blue Boy, and Uncle Hammy's hotdog costume isn't going to cut the mustard anymore.

Dan often has great ideas but things just don't work out very well.  For example, at this point, he doesn't relish showing Uncle Hammy the condition of the very expensive costume, or how little business he's been drumming up (most of the samples end up on the floor), so Dan decides it's best just to quit for the day.  But his plan is quickly forgotten when Brooke reappears, charming him once again, into making several very poor choices.  He's a fifteen-year-old and a girl is being nice to him.  What else could he do?

Luckily for Dan, things usually turn out all right in the end.  So what if he ends up wrapped in toilet paper? It isn't as bad as running through the mall in only his white cotton underwear (that happens too).  Of course, there is the theft of a lady's purse.  But, like I said, Dan's hotdog escapade does resolve itself, probably just not the way he or the reader anticipates.

Vicki Grant is the "it" author for YA humour of the real world. She doesn't use supernatural elements or expect the reader to suspend belief.
  And she never condescends to the reader or her characters.  She is frank (not furter) and empowers her characters to be bona fide teens, with many positive attributes, as well as a few foibles.  Her stories are funny because they could be the anecdotes of some poor teen.  In fact, I'm sure that somewhere a reader is remembering a similar incident to one from Hold the Pickles and laughing hysterically.  For example, what guy hasn't had a friend tell him a girl was out of his league? But, when Shane tells Dan this, he encourages him with, "Don't be upset, old buddy. You'll find someone. Who knows? There's probably a nice little female meatball or chicken nugget prancing around here today who'd love to get to know a guy like you" (pg. 45).  Even Dan wonders, "What guy longs to meet the meatball of his dreams?" (pg. 46).   

There are many teens, most especially reluctant readers, who appreciate the hi-lo nature of the Orca Currents series:  compelling characters, uncomplicated vocabulary, and contemporary plots in a short read.  But it's Vicki Grant's comic stylings that make Hold the Pickles an exceptional Orca Current book, as it elicits numerous laughs embellishing on the dilemmas of youth.

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