Monday, October 12, 2015

All About Middle Grade Review: The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez

The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez by Peter Johnson, June 24, 2014. 224 pages. Published by HarperCollins. Source: Publisher.
Everyone thinks Benny Alvarez is Mr. Negativity. According to Benny, he's just realistic about seeing the "other side" of things—when it comes to just about everything. But maybe there's another way to deal with the things Benny can't control—like his ailing grandfather, his wild younger brother, and the know-it-all girls at school. In this poignant novel about acceptance, Benny Alvarez will have to decide . . . is the glass half empty or half full?
First Sentence:
First, a test:
      Let's say you're cruising on your skateboard down a street you know better than the secret places where you stash forbidden sticks of gum or that red joy buzzer you trick your younger brother with, when out of nowhere a squirrel cuts you off, making you fall and break your ankle. 

The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez has been sitting on my "need to write review" pile for an embarrassingly long time. I won't say how long...just too long. It was one of those books that you really enjoy and then, well then you just cannot put into words why you liked it so much. *story of my life*

Let's get down to business and knock another book off the backlog of reviews to be written!!

There were many things that drew me to reading this book that showed up in the post last year. The chief of them being that I was curious as to why everyone considered Benny to be "Mr. Negativity" and more so what the overall plot of the book would be. When it comes to books that show up for review, well, I am notorious for not reading what they're about. It keeps things interesting and helps prevent book spoilage. From pretty much the first page I found myself completely pulled in by the writing and by Benny's story.

Oddly enough, as I read this book and learned more about Benny and his personality, the more I came to seem him not as a negative person but more as one who sees things in black and white with no grey. Or it could just be that we are similar in the fashion that most people think we are negative... Whatever the reason, I really just found myself enjoying Benny's story, but, who honestly would not enjoy reading his story especially when it makes you 'feel' things.

Having never read anything by Peter Johnson before I had no idea what to expect from his brand of storytelling. Yet, time-and-again I find myself deeply pulled into his writing as he captured so much of Benny's story so well. I really enjoyed how The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez was about more than Benny's supposed negativity, but more about his working through the things going on his life. Even though it has been ages since I read it, the entire book still lingers on my mind because it was so well done. I won't lie, but, as the story unfolded and things came to light (things that were only hinted at in the beginning), well, I may have gotten a little misty eyed.

Closing in on my final thoughts (maybe).

Another thing that I really liked about this book was everything that happened between Claudine and Benny. While I won't go into details here, I do want to say that it gave an interesting arc to the overall story-line because it helped to illustrate the differences between the two...also, I really, and I mean really, liked seeing how they eventually worked through their misunderstanding of each other. It was unexpected and yet totally great.

Final Verdict: The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez- This book has more packed in it then you see at first glance. Truly a great read!!

The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez earns
this book was received from the publisher in consideration for review. All thoughts are my own.

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