Title: Crazy WeekendCrazy-Weekend
Author: Gary Soto
Pages: 144
Reading Level: 10-12
Star Rating: ★★

I could tell that this story had the potential for silliness even before I read it, but I allowed the cute picture on the front and the story synopsis to influence my purchase.

The Story.

It was all Hector’s mother’s idea – this visit to Uncle Julio. But hey, it’s a chance to get around a bit, see the world, maybe even have a little adventure.

So Hector and his best friend, Mando, leave their city homes in L. A. and fly to Fresno, California, to hang out at Uncle Julio’s apartment for the week. But Uncle Julio isn’t content to let them just hole up; he wants to take them around a bit – show them his work. He’s a photographer who’s often hired to take aerial shots of farms and factories.

Hector and Mando aren’t keen on the idea of flying in that ratty plane, even if they do get to eat donuts during the whole ride. But while they’re up in the air, Uncle Julio spots something – something strange. It looks like a vehicle has caught on fire! So Uncle Julio begins snapping pictures of it. Maybe the newspaper will want to buy it for a story!

The newspaper does want to buy it, but for reasons more serious than Uncle Julio could have imagined. The pictures aren’t simply of a little accident on the roadside – they’re the only pictorial documentation available of a holdup that took place that afternoon! The pictures will help the police to capture the criminals. But when the criminals find out about Uncle Julio and the boys’ snooping, they decide it’s time to teach them a lesson.

Will Uncle Julio and the boys be safe? Or will the criminals make mincemeat out of them?

Discussion.

There are some books whose style is just everything you’ve ever thought of or hoped for in a story. Then there are some stories that are just alright. And then there are the stories that seem as though they are desperately trying to achieve distinction and originality and fail miserably at both. Unfortunately, Crazy Weekend falls into the last category. Mind you, the story premise was not that bad – nephews go to stay with uncle for the weekend and have adventures. Pretty plausible (I mean, what else do you do with uncles?) and even a little sweet. But instead of accepting the limitations of the story, Mr. Soto tried to make it into some sort of epic adventure. Thus, Crazy Weekend read like a zany story full of one-dimensional characters whose favorite activities are to engage in cheesy arguments rittled with random Mexican words. Seriously. Every time I began to get into the story, Hector and Mandos started arguing about who was more intelligent and calling each other ese and hombre. (?!?!?)

Other than being embarrassingly cheesy, the story included a disturbing romantic element. I’m not against romance in stories; I believe it can be handled appropriately if not ideally by secular authors. But the romance in this story was unsubstantial yet constant; references to girlfriends and exes, and above all Uncle Julio’s abrupt absorption with Vicky Moreno.

They meet one day in a newspaper office, and Uncle Julio is instantly trying to attract her attention, even though he barely even knows her name. He picks her based purely upon her looks. Then, instead of treating their relationship as a serious thing that should be handled soberly, Uncle Julio approaches their relationship as the time to turn on his smoky voice and wear Lover Boy perfume. Hector and Mando spend their time snickering at him. Don’t get me wrong – I found the relationship so stupid that I wanted to snicker too, but this snicker-worthy relationship was portrayed as the normal way for romance to develop. Its superficiality was gagging.

A lot of humor is derived from the fact that a frustrated woman keeps calling Uncle Julio’s apartment looking for his former roommate who was her boyfriend.

In probably the ugliest moment in the book, Mando says of the robbers,

“I’m gonna break that ugly one’s face,” Mando growled, jabbing at the night air. “I’ll make him so ugly that when his mom sees him, she’s gonna jump from a building.” [pg. 113]

Hector and Mando are definitely the cool boy type, not manly role models. Their greatest delight seems to be derived from heckling each other and using slang vocabulary.

Several ‘white’ lies are told.

There are several pop-cultural references – Disneyland, rock groups, prom, etc.

‘H—’, ‘d—’ (fully spelled), and ‘heck’ are each used once.

Conclusion. Crazy Weekend is not what I would consider a worthwhile – much less edifying – read.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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