Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Schmatz, Pat. 2008. Mousetraps.

Mousetraps is a busy little book. In a way it reminds me of Sweethearts by Sara Zarr. And it feels like a cousin once or twice removed from a Barry Lyga novel*. At the heart of this novel, is the story of an almost-friendship. Once upon a time (back in elementary school) there was a girl, Maxie, who was quite good friends with a boy, Roddy Nash. After a violent (bullying) incident in middle school (seventh grade, I think), Roddy moves away...only to resurface several years later in high school. He is now calling himself Rick. Maxie is shocked to see him in her chemistry class. Not happy. Not upset. Just shocked. You see in the last year (or two) when she'd known him she had begun to distance herself from him. His nerdiness was becoming more apparent--or perhaps, she just began caring that he was a bit different from the other kids.

Now that he's back, Maxie is trying to decide what their relationship--if any--should be. Just lab partners? Just friends? Just friends outside of school? Boyfriend and girlfriend?

As I said, this is a busy book. There are many different complicating layers to the basic plot. Her cousin, Sean, and his biracial jock boyfriend, Dexter, who is still in the closet. Her best friend, Tay, who is becoming more and more distant as she experiments with drugs. And there are the assumptions and burdens of memory. How traumatized was Roddy from all those years before? Is Rick gay? Is Rick in denial? Does Rick have an anger problem? Now that it's written out, it doesn't seem like those additional story lines would cloud up the text...but it just felt like this was too much of a "problem" novel.

I think the book tried to do too much in a way. (Especially towards the end.) Yes, life is complicated. Yes, people often have more than one problem to deal with at a time. But the characters and the plot seemed to only have dimensions because of the problems. Take away the problems, and what you're left with are very flat characters. The problems define the characters. That isn't true of everyone. There are a few that are multi-dimensional.

Another review of Moustraps: Amanda,
*I'm thinking of The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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