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Grendel's Guide to Love and War
Cover of Grendel's Guide to Love and War
Grendel's Guide to Love and War
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The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Revenge of the Nerds in this tale of a teen misfit who seeks to take down the bro next door, but ends up falling for his enemy's sister and uncovering difficult...
The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Revenge of the Nerds in this tale of a teen misfit who seeks to take down the bro next door, but ends up falling for his enemy's sister and uncovering difficult...
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Description-

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Revenge of the Nerds in this tale of a teen misfit who seeks to take down the bro next door, but ends up falling for his enemy's sister and uncovering difficult truths about his family in the process.

    Tom Grendel lives a quiet life—writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the "manic-pixie-dream" label. But when Willow's brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens' community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is rightfully pissed—his dad is an Iraq vet, and the noise from the parties triggers his PTSD—so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. But of course, it's not that simple.

    One retaliation leads to another, and things quickly escalate out of control, driving Tom and Willow apart, even as the parties continue unabated. Add to that an angsty existential crisis born of selectively reading his sister's Philosophy 101 coursework, a botched break-in at an artisanal pig farm, and ten years of unresolved baggage stemming from his mother's death . . . and the question isn't so much whether Tom Grendel will win the day and get the girl, but whether he'll survive intact.

Excerpts-

  • From the book Chapter One

    When I was nine years old, on the nineteen-­day anniversary of my mother's sudden and unexpected death, I had the unfortunate experience of visiting the world's worst family counselor.

    It was still not entirely real yet, my mother's death, and I vacillated between crying and waiting for her to come home and tell me that everyone had made a huge mistake, that it hadn't been her who had a stroke at the kitchen table, but the neighbor, or some random woman off the street who had wandered into our house and died in my mother's chair while we were at school.

    Anyway, there we were, listening to the counselor give her phony condolences, and then she went on to explain that my mother's life was a sentence and her death was a punctuation mark. It was up to us, she said, to decide whether to view Mom's death as a period (boo) or an exclamation point (yay!). I sat there numbly and watched the clock, grateful that the hour-­long session would only run fifty minutes, and wishing that we were further in than minute fourteen.

    On minute fifteen, my sister, who up to this point had appeared three-­quarters asleep, sat up and said, "What about a semicolon? Could death be a semicolon?"

    "I," said the counselor. "Well. Um."

    "Or an asterisk? Or an ellipsis? Maybe if you believe in reincarnation, it's an ellipsis." I frowned, because I did not yet know what an ellipsis was, while Zip turned to look at my dad, saying, "Do we believe in reincarnation?"

    "Zipora," the counselor said.

    "Comma!" Zip shouted. "Ampersand!"

    At that point I stood up, sputtering but emboldened by the wisdom of my sister's accrued fourteen years, and screamed, "QUESTION MARK!"

    Whereupon my father took my sister and me by the hand and walked us out of the office, down to the car, and drove us through the nearest McDonald's drive-­thru, where we ordered French fries that we ate silently in the parking lot.

    Needless to say, we never went back, but even now, eight years later, I have trouble thinking of death without also thinking of punctuation. It's an unfortunate side effect of being a kid, I guess: you have no control over what people say to you, or what will stick. If I had a choice about what I remembered most from age nine, I guarantee Punctuation Lady would not have made the list, but there you go (period).

    ###

    And so it was that on the day I heard of my next-­door neighbor's death, I thought (randomly): Parentheses.

    I was mowing her lawn at the time I heard; it was around ten in the morning, the best possible time for mowing grass in the summer, if there is a best time for mowing grass in the summer. It was hot but not horribly so, and the mosquitoes were at a reasonable level.

    I was pushing my heavy, nonelectric push mower, thinking, as I usually did, that there is something profoundly enjoyable about pushing a manual lawn mower. I'm not sure if it's the noise—­a sort of whooshing whir that sounds a little bit like a hamster running on a wheel—­or if it's the way your muscles burn when you have to push up a hill, or if it's just watching the piles of cut grass fall on the freshly trimmed lawn. There's something satisfying about the whole affair that you just don't get from a power mower.

    At any rate, I was pushing my trusty manual across my next-­door neighbors' expansive lawn when I heard of the untimely demise of Minnie Taylor. It shouldn't have been much of a shock—­she'd been like three hundred years old—­but still. I'd seen her just the day before, standing outside in her unfortunately sheer nightgown, calling her herd of cats inside...

About the Author-

  • A. E. Kaplan was born in California and moved to Virginia at the age of seven, where she spent her childhood playing in the woods and reading all the folklore she could get her hands on. She has a BA in history and religious studies from the College of William and Mary and an MLS from Florida State University. Now a writer, she lives in Virginia with her family. Grendel's Guide to Love and War is her first young adult novel. Follow her on Twitter at @ae_kaplan.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 24, 2017
    Debut author Kaplan uses the epic poem “Beowulf” as inspiration for a clever, heartfelt story about teen angst, memory, and family. Seventeen-year-old Tom Grendel’s life in Masonberg, Va., is far from perfect. His mother died from a stroke when he was nine, and his father returned from Iraq with an untreated case of PTSD. When Tom’s elderly neighbors leave their home to their niece and her two children, Rex and Willow, things get really bad. Kaplan draws loose parallels between the poem and Tom’s growing feud with Rex, who throws a series of raging parties. Finding the late-night keggers unbearable, Tom’s father accepts an assignment hundreds of miles away, and Tom—fearing for his father’s sanity—takes action. The subsequent prank war escalates with the arrival of Rex’s older cousin, Wolf. Kaplan successfully reimagines Grendel in a sympathetic and modestly heroic light, as he fights a giant jerk and wins the heart of a girl with help from a loyal best friend and an older sister who takes charge. Ages 12–up. Agent: Hannah Bowman, Liza Dawson Associates.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from February 15, 2017
    Tom Grendel battles unruly neighbors and honors family history, all with an eye on the girl next door, in this witty debut novel and homage to Beowulf.The white Jewish teen actually likes his home in the "retirement mecca" of Lake Heorot in Virginia. Since his mother's unexpected death, the older ladies in the community bake Tom casseroles, and he mows their lawns and gathers their oral histories. More important, it's been a quiet community for Tom and his widower father, Aaron, an Iraq War vet who suffers from PTSD. But when white local newscaster Ellen Rothgar moves in and her son, Rex, and nephew, Wolf, begin to hold loud, all-night parties that trigger Aaron's PTSD, Tom vows to rid the neighborhood of these thugs. A fine blend of quirkiness and raw emotion ensues as Tom and his neighbors wage war against one another, using fog machines, artisanal pigs, and other outlandish ammunition. Assisted by his spunky older sister and Ed, a Korean-American friend who waits tables at a knockoff American Girl cafe, Tom also hopes to save Rex's sister, Willow, in the process. Just as in the original epic, this loyal teen confronts his own identity and memories, particularly those of his mother. He wonders if he can really know a person. Can anyone? Deep and uproarious all at once, this doesn't require familiarity with the source material for readers to have a fine time with it. A clever spin on a weighty classic. (Fiction. 14-adult)

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from March 1, 2017

    Gr 8 Up-When the Rothgars move in next door, high schooler Tom Grendel's summer takes a turn into uncharted territory that proves often terrible, definitely weird, and occasionally wonderful beyond words. He has struggled with the death of his mother and his father's post-traumatic stress disorder for years; the appearance of the Rothgars, anti-manic pixie dream girl Willow, and inveterate bullies Rex and Wolf in particular push him to more deeply confront love, loss, and what it means to claim one's self. A well-crafted cast of characters and (mostly) winning humor help carry a narrative that never shies away from a nuanced portrayal of the pains and joys of adolescence and of the ability to find strength in embracing life's absurdity. Kaplan cleverly sprinkles elements from the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf throughout, adding a layer that attentive readers might appreciate. The allusions never run too deep, however, and those unfamiliar with the classic work won't miss much. VERDICT An outstanding YA novel balancing comedy with substantial themes of love, death, and healing.-Ted McCoy, Leeds Elementary and Ryan Road Elementary, MA

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Lance Rubin, author of Denton Little's Death Date "Grendel's Guide to Love and War is both laugh-out-loud funny and cry-softly-to-yourself heartbreaking. A surprisingly affecting comedic gem about what it means to truly know another human being."
  • Kate Hattemer, author of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy "A smart, snappy novel that weaves allusions to Beowolf into a plot full of pranks, home-brewing, lawn-mowing, and a fearsome geriatric army. Deftly satirical and unexpectedly moving, this book is a can't-miss."
  • Leila Sales, author of This Song Will Save Your Life "Get ready to fall in love with Tom Grendel! He cracked me up, he made me cringe, and he surprised me, but through it all, I was always rooting for him--and you will, too."

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