Friday, November 7, 2008

The Screwed-Up Life of Charlie the Second -- Drew Ferguson

Upon being asked about what I was reading by a couple of guys my age:
Me: Oh, it's called The Screwed-Up Life of Charlie the Second. I'm about half-way through. Not much has happened yet, except that Charlie just got his first boyfriend. Other
than that, there's been a masturbation scene on, like, every other page.

Guy 1 and Guy 2 look at each other.

Guy 1: How old is this kid?

Me: He's a senior in high school.

Guy 1 and Guy 2 look at each other again.

Both guys, in unison: Yep, sounds about right.

Charles James Stewart, II -- Charles the Second, not Charles, Jr., even though his father bears the same name -- is known as Charlie to his friends, as Chip at his running-for-state-attorney father's press conferences, and as Smart-Ass at home. He's never particularly fit in at school, drives his parents crazy (the feeling is mutual), lusts after his unfortunately straight best friend Bink (and Bink's brothers, for that matter), has failed his driver's test six times, can't seem to get his college essays written, and has never had a boyfriend.

That last part is about to change.

The Screwed-Up Life of Charlie the Second is not an action-packed book. It's about a guy in high school. There are no car chases,government conspiracies or evil geniuses. He is not a vampire. So if that's what you're looking for, you'll probably want to look elsewhere. But if reading about a Midwestern, Lutheran, gay Adrian Mole sounds attractive, you're in for a treat.

It had a fantastic opening paragraph:

Okay, so maybe getting my scrawny ass pushed into the back of a Crystal Lake cop car wasn't the smartest thing I've done, but Dana's party last night--it sucked. She should thank me. The only thing anyone'll remember about the party is me being busted.

but it still did take me a little while for me to get into the book. Once Charlie won me over, though, once I was invested, I didn't put the book down -- I just sat where I was and read the whole thing in one go.

Charlie's smart and sarcastic and frustrated and funny, but some people might find his voice off-putting -- his descriptions of sex (whether, to use his term, "making knuckle babies" or with a partner) are pretty graphic and his descriptions of other people, while vivid and probably apt, can be somewhat cruel. I, personally, really enjoyed him.

The sometimes prickliness of his voice helped to make him more real for me, and by the end of the book, I felt more like I'd read a memoir than a novel. Charlie felt that real to me. And, of course, it helped that the dialogue was very well done, that I loved the secondary characters -- especially Bink and his family -- and that the situations Charlie would find himself in (sometimes through his own doings, sometimes not so much) always seemed within the realm of everyday life.

By the end of the book, I had to physically restrain myself from cheering for Charlie. (I was in public.)

--Crossposted at Bookshelves of Doom--


BookChic said...

I really enjoyed this book too! I reviewed it a while back on my own blog. I can't wait to read more from Ferguson. :)

Great review!

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Definitely agree with James..I can't wait for more by Drew. Awesome book. Definitely one that drags you in and reads quickly.


Unknown said...

Maybe I'll check it out.

I'm here via the comment challenge at

Unknown said...

Hated it. The fast paced diary of a sex obsessed homosexual teenager left my brain in agony. This book is the equivalent to being stuck in a room with an acid crazed Perez Hilton. There is nothing original about the screwed up life except for the fact that charlie is gay. Waist of time avoid this book.

- Siglee

trish said...

I'm reading this book for the Nerds Heart YA book tournament, and at first I was a little put off by how obsessed Charlie was with his dick. But then I realized that that's how boys ARE. Being a girl...well, we just don't think about sex nearly as much.

I kept reading though and really ended up cheering for Charlie. I think he was human and on this side of ridiculous, but he wasn't unbelievable.

Also, after talking to someone else about this book, I think this book will be loved by teens who are gay, unsure, or even friends of guys who are gay. While I was initially worried at a teenager reading such graphic stuff, I quickly remembered that I sought this stuff out as a teen, wondering what the big deal was.