My Lucky Star by Joe Keenan In Keenan’s third offering featuring former lover Phillip and Gilbert and their best pal Claire, the action is fast, furious, and hilarious. (No, I haven’t read the first two, either, but I might look them up.) Phillip is crushed over the failure of his and Claire’s latest play in New York. Gilbert is in L.A. visiting his mother and her new husband, a famous movie producer. Faster that you can say “transcontinental flight”, Gilbert is pulling strings to get Phillip, Claire and himself a job screenwriting a schmaltzy World War II flick for a renowned action producer. Now, as long as no one with any background in film history finds the sample script Gilbert turned in, they’ll be off to a promising new career. When closeted male action star Stephen Donato turns out to be involved, Phillip offers to spy on Stephen’s aunt Lilly and help with her memoir-writing, in a desperate bid both to keep the script-writing job and gain Stephen’s favor. Keeping Gilbert from getting them into any more trouble gets even harder when Gilbert’s blackmailing ex-wife, Moira, turns up. Phillip’s narrative is full of snappy cultural references and self-deprecating humor, and the action doesn’t let up in this hilarious comic caper.
Buddha Boy by Kathe Koja Justin is an ordinary boy in an ordinary high school, a high school with a strict social hierarchy violently enforced by those on the top. Justin keeps his place in the middle mostly by staying under the radar with his friends Jakob and Megan. Then a new boy comes – Michael, who calls himself Jinsen. With his shaved head, hand-me-downs, and begging bowl, he immediately draws attention to himself. At first, Justin avoids the freak along with everyone else. Then he finds himself drawn towards Jinsen by a shared interest in art. This unfortunately only serves to make Jinsen a bigger target for the bullies of the school – but what does a bully do when a victim refuses to play along? The characters and the cruelty are familiar, but Koja does a spectacular job of telling a story that is realistic without being preachy, saccharine, or devoid of hope. Jinsen’s character manages never to cross the fine line over which sanctimoniousness and unbelievability lie. Justin, too, grows a healthy amount of spine over the course of the book. The story is especially well suited to the audio production, where it is read by a full cast, bringing the teen voices even more fully to life.