Calame, Don Dan Versus Nature, 375 pages. Candlewick Press, 2016. $17.99. Mature Content: R; Language: R (93 swears, 12 “f”); Violence: R.
Dan’s mother is in love again, but this time, her suitor, Hank, has proposed marriage. As a surprise for his 16th birthday, Dan’s mother has “gifted” him a weeklong, guided outdoor survival experience with Hank so that the two can get to know each other. Apparently she never noticed her son is an artsy, nerdy, avid indoors-man, and Hank doesn’t seem too thrilled about it either. Dan is alarmed at the prospect of their marriage, which would result in his having to move to a new high school for junior year, so he and his friend Charlie (who inexplicably joins them on the trip) cook up a plan to thoroughly disgust and repel Hank from wanting to be his new dad.
The first 300 pages of this book contain endless, senseless gross-out gags, with very little character development or situational depth. Hank does his best to take all the abuse in stride, but Dan and his friend are truly unlikable for a tremendous part of the book, and only start to change at the tail end of their trip. It’s a very juvenile premise, densely packed with middle-school bodily function humor that’s interspersed with sexual longing, so I’m not sure what audience the author is going for. He may have been trying to appeal to older readers by adding Charlie’s scientific and erudite banter with Penelope, a fellow survivalist on the trip, but if readers are amused by the foul (though, blessedly, unrealistic and forgettable) situations in the book, I doubt they are going to be inspired by the advanced vocabulary.
NOT RECOMMENDED. Reviewed by JA, High School Librarian