Burger Wuss by M.T. Anderson

Burger WussReading level: 5.4
Lexile: 420
Genre: Realistic fiction, general fiction
ELL-Friendly: Not particularly
Library recommendation: High school, (middle school okay)

Goodreads summary:

Anthony has never been able to stand up for himself —- that is, not until his girlfriend is in someone else’s arms. Then Anthony vows revenge and devises the Plan. It begins with getting a job at the fast-food restaurant where his nemesis happens to be a star employee. But when the Plan is finally in place, will Anthony’s hunger for revenge be satisfied? Will he prove he’s not a wuss?

I bought Burger Wuss when I realized I needed some “boy books,” and the cover looks like it’ll appeal to boys, right? I think I was right. The main character Anthony is a boy, and he struggles with a bully and girl problems. Typical boy stuff. It’s a light, quick read and is pretty funny if you get the satire.  And honestly, M.T. Anderson’s writing bugs me, but the plot was engaging enough that I actually enjoyed the story.

Burger Wuss is a good example of an engaging book where you want to punch the main character in the face. He’s kind of immature, not to mention awkward and annoying. He goes on and on about how Turner stole his girlfriend, as if the girl had no say in the situation. Fortunately, the girl sets Anthony right and explains it was her choice, too, and that she doesn’t belong to anybody. Okay, come to think of it, there were no characters I actually liked. I’m sure Anderson did that on purpose as some statement about the idiocy of America’s youth or something. He’s into that sort of thing.

I really enjoyed the message of the story: an eye for an eye doesn’t make you feel good; stooping to your enemy’s level to beat him does not make you brave. Anthony might still be a dweeb by the end of the book, but at least he understands who he is a little better and embraces his niceness, even if it makes him a “wuss.”

Scholastic claims that the interest level is 6th grade. I could see that, but this book needs a pg-14 sticker. There’s a good amount of swearing, Anthony and his friend talk about sex (but nothing graphic or in-depth), there are references to drinking and smoking week, and there are several recounts of the scene where Anthony’s “nemesis” is found laying half-naked on top of a girl. I have few qualms about putting it in a middle school library, but I could see it making pre-pubescent readers uncomfortable – hence the pg-14 rating.

It’s not particularly ELL-friendly due to frequent colloquialisms and sentence fragments. The writing in general is choppy, which is undoubtedly another statement about how youth think and speak. I think that if ELLs have a decent command of conversational speech (BICS), then they’ll be okay, though.

Burger Wuss is my twenty-fourth book of the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Bookish.

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