Guy Langman doesn’t let much ruffle him. He’s your typical smart-boy slacker: he just doesn’t care all that much. But when his best friend Anoop convinces him to join the school’s forensics club in order to meet some girls, Guy decides to go for it. What results isn’t what they necessarily thought they were going to get: there’s a real dead body, a bunch of valuable stolen coins, and the fact that Guy can’t stop thinking about his recently-deceased father. Like it or not, Guy’s going to have to use all his new forensic skills to figure some stuff out.
It’s difficult to walk the line between humor and grief. It’s even harder to blend the two so perfectly, but that’s exactly what Josh Berk does in this funny, heartfelt novel about a slacker kid who’s starting to figure out his life. Vivid characters, truly funny observations about life and love, and a memorable plot make this a standout in the mystery genre this year.
Berk nails Guy’s voice from page one, and in doing so guarantees that he’ll hook even the most reluctant reader (this one was convinced). Guy is too smart for his own good, bored by school, and apathetic about most things, but it becomes clear early on that he’s really struggling with the death of his father. There’s some character growth here, but it’s subtle, and Berk goes for the laughs as often as he does the tears.
A brilliant supporting cast make this one a total trip to read. All of the characters who populate Guy’s world are interesting, quirky, and undeniably human. The hijinx Guy and his friends find themselves up to are completely entertaining, and the novel’s quick pacing keep the games afoot (or a-thumb, as the case may be).
Overall a really fun read with a surprising amount of depth. Highly recommended, but especially for those who like their humor a little dark and their wit a little edgy. One of my favorite reads of the fall, for the laughs alone.
Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk. Knopf Books for Young Readers: 2012. Library copy. Read for 2012 Cybils Round 1 Panel.