I have read a couple of books lately that confirmed for me that I am simply too old to appreciate the edgy, increasingly depressing and horrifying themes of recent YA novels. And yes, I am too old, but this book was not one of them. The ironically named Happy Valley High has the typical roster of peer groups wreaking havoc on the self-esteem of the tender-hearted, but Cliff Hubbard has had enough of all of that. Instead, in a twist of fate only a decidedly adept novelist could achieve, the awkward, 6’6” 250lb Hubbard is teaming up with the ridiculously popular quarterback, to accomplish what is perhaps my favorite mission statement ever, “to make the school suck less.”
I don’t usually like to summarize the books I review, but I wanted to do this here, because I think the plot itself seems, in those few sentences, to be wildly unbelievably and unlikely to compel a teenage reader. But Norton’s writing is sharp and his observations are spot on and often hilarious, despite the serious topics he tackles. Cliff Hubbard is a character who literally cannot be ignored. This book will make your heart hurt, but it will also make you smile, and it may even provide a little hope for those of us who agree that making school suck less is always a worthy goal.