Grand & Humble

Grand & Humble
by Brent Hartinger
YA fiction. 212 pp.
HarperTempest. 2006.

I will just state at the beginning that I am a big Hartinger fan. I really liked Geography Club and The Order of the Poison Oak, and I'm sure I'll like The Last Chance Texaco when the copy I ordered from the Devil's Den last weekend arrives.

Grand & Humble is different from the two previous books I've read. Alternating chapters tell the stories of Harlan and Manny. From the flap copy:

Harlan's a popular kid and Manny's a geek.

But something strange is happening to both of them. Harlan is slowly losing his grip because he's plagued by panic attacks he can't control. And Manny has started having nerve-racking nightmares that leave him exhausted and terrified.

In this complex and original novel, popular author Brent Hartinger takes us on an intense psychological journey as Harlan and Manny struggle with a fear they can't name. It's a journey that eventually leads downtown, where a secret lies at the intersection of Grand and Humble.

As a general rule, one of the reasons I love Hartinger is because he gives an authentic voice to his characters. They get to be complex characters who are trying to make sense of the world around them. This book takes that up a notch. Both characters are intriguing, and as a reader, you know that they are somehow connected, though you're not quite sure how. The twists and turns were unexpected. And just when you think you have it solved, Hartinger throws another curve ball at you.

One of the things I especially enjoyed about this book was that, days later, I was still thinking about it and the implications it brings up. To me, that's a good book.

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