Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: The Underwear Dare

by the Nardini Sisters
Sorelle Publishing (February 2011)
Ages 8-12

Caution: Adults are not likely to be charmed by The Underwear Dare, with its heavy doses of gross out humor and bully vs nerd well trod trope; however, this adult found herself laughing in spite of herself, and there's no doubt kids will be entertained as two step brothers square off in a series of dares that has them each doing the unthinkable—acting in ways they each want each other to behave.

The story starts off with painfully tired stereotypes—nerdy Josh suffers from his stepbrother Eddie's cruel pranks. They share a room. They fight. The situation seems unchangeable, until Josh's dad announces that he's turning the attic into a bedroom. The catch: the boys have to decide, without fighting, who gets the coveted room. Thus, the dares. Each boy has a week to complete his dare. If they both complete their dares by Friday, they move into a new dare the following week and the week after that, culminating in the ultimate dare: the first one to run through the cafeteria during lunchtime wins.

Josh dares Eddie to stop bullying kids (i.e., taking protection money) and to do something nice for everyone he's been mean to. And Eddie dares Josh to produce an earsplitting belch in class. Both are challenging enough to turn the first week into a fun drama of failures and mishaps, resulting in both of them being brought in for weekly sessions with an earnest school counselor.

As the dares progress, tidbits emerge that shed light on Eddie's behavior and the boys' relationship slowly transforms. The Nardini Sisters do a really nice job of not being preachy. Instead, Josh's insights are lightly tossed and always secondary to his main occupation: winning the dare by being more disgusting than his step brother. The ending is perfect and well earned.

My only real quibble is with the typesetting (of all things). Funny that I would even notice this, but it's off just enough to have distracted me in the beginning, especially the large first line indentations. The story and writing grabbed me soon enough to get past that, though. It's such a fun read, with surprisingly touching revelations, I'd definitely recommend this one to reluctant readers, especially those who love to be grossed out.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.

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