BOOKLIST *starred* review.
Smash your Stratocaster, pop the devil horns, and bite the head off a bat—this headbanger is so right-on with passion and detail that you’ll be smelling the garage-band funk and feeling the bass rattle your teeth. Eighteen-year-old Ritchie Sudden is stuck in juvie and tasked with journaling how he got there. In short: girls, music, and some bullshit trauma that Ritchie doesn’t even want to talk about. It starts, as always, with best bud Elliot Hella, he of the shaved head and thick muttonchops, whose go-nowhere life hinges upon winning a big-time battle of the bands. El Hella and Ritchie have the requisite crappy equipment and sloppy chops to make hardcore history—all they need is a drummer, a singer, and a bad-ass band name. (“Sin Sistermouth” ain’t cutting it.) Beaudoin is the Fred Astaire of comic writing, translating each sentence into a manic dance routine of half-invented jargon (“chewing the profunda-cud”) on his way to blessedly non-cloying coming-of-age glory. The book is hugely generous: in sex, in violence, in attitude, and especially in heart, as Ritchie gets it through his thick skull what “punk” really means. And the performance scenes? Dude. If you can’t grok the monster energy of these glorious idiots flailing around on-stage, you’re already dead. -Booklist Aug. 1, 2013
School Library Journal *starred* review
This coming-of-age story is told in alternating story lines, leading up to Ritchie Sudden’s arrest and his time in a juvenile detention center. Three years before the story begins, the teen’s sister died in a drunk-driving accident, his father left and married a younger woman, and his mother started dating a younger woman. Ritchie picked up the guitar and poured his emotions into it. Now, he is entering his junior year in high school. He is in a hard-core band with his only friend, El Hella. They are trying to build their band, while Ritchie jumps from one bad relationship to the next and commits a felony. When the band rises to stardom, Ritchie has an emotional explosion that ends in his arrest. His time in juvie is told through short journal entries. His plan to keep from getting beaten up is to be antisocial and keep his head down. This doesn’t work out and two inmates try to kill him. He narrowly escapes by pulling off an incredible stunt and finally comes out of his shell. There are a lot of messages about the importance of safe driving and staying away from drugs and alcohol without being preachy. This is not a typical rock band story; it is actually interesting. The author does a brilliant job getting into the head of a troubled teen and does not shy away from racy topics.
Fat Girl Reading review
Fave line: "when I start thinking about not just my “favorites” of 2013 but the books I read in 2013 that I admired, deeply, on a craft level and was, to no small degree, awed by. Wise Young Fool is a work of art – no really – that is about the power of art, it’s a book that is profoundly sarcastic and mean but also deeply moving"
My fave line: "Wise Young Fool is stupid good. It’s thrilling, it’s charming, it’s witty, and it’s a book you clearly need to get your hands on."
My fave line: "Wise Young Fool is a Favorite Book Read in 2013."
My fave line: "I have been reading Sean Beaudoin’s books for a while, and I find them intriguing. Beaudoin is - I guess I’ll have to use the term "prose stylist," - a person who finds a groove and writes in it, somebody who adds syncopation, frill, and rumble to his writing. And this is something of a rarity in young adult fiction. What’s that? You want to know why? Ok sure fine, I’ll tell you why: because a lot of people don’t think that teens have the sophistication to read through and past anything but the most ordinary deviations from straight prose - text messages, teen vernacular, the occasional cartoon."
NOVEL NOVICE REVIEW— My fave line: "I can easily see Wise Young Fool finding a home on the bookshelf next to Catcher in the Rye (though Ritchie would probably hate being compared to Holden Caulfield, but DEAL with it, Ritchie. Deal with it) and in the hands of teenager readers who want a book that just screams “THIS IS MY LIFE AND IT DOES NOT SOUND LIKE A CONDESCENDING ADULT WROTE IT.” Huzzah."
TEEN READS REVIEW- My fave line: "Ritchie’s unflagging sarcasm and cynicism wear on his family and friends, but readers will laugh out loud at his observations and dialogue. Beaudoin builds suspense with the interlaced stories between past and present successfully to create a page-turning read. While the stories together run long, readers will enjoy seeing Ritchie throw off his grief and deal in a clever and funny ending."
The Bewitched Bookworm REVIEW- fave line: "Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin is a brilliantly written and brutally honest story of the 18 year old rockstar (to be) Richie. It deals sex, grief and growing up with lost of laughter but is still earnest enough. Richie was an outstanding character who can hardly be put into any cliché but managed to win us over with his smart wit and hilarious attitude!"
ART EDWARDS REVIEW- My fave line: "Beaudoin skillfully bounces back and forth in time between Ritchie’s time in juvie and the events that lead to it, but the detention side of Ritchie’s experiences runs thin compared to the drama of his band, his love life, and the moment he commits his crime. Still, Beaudoin seamlessly brings it all together in the end, like the disparate members of a rock band coming down hard on the last note of the night, right before the singer shouts “thank you” and they scurry off"
my fave line: "If you’re out there, Ritchie, I hope that you’ve found some peace. I can only imagine, but it seems like walking in your shoes is like a trip to HELL and back. Not that I really know. But like you, I’m going to imagine. I hope people read your story and learn some things from the pain you went through. Maybe then it was worth it? Live on. Live on. Wise. Young. Fool."
My fave line: "I cannot say it any other way and I’m sad that I cannot express myself any better – but this book was absolutely and incredible brilliantly written. I’m in awe of the incredibly talented Sean Beaudoin as he managed to create characters in such a brutally honest way that made me want to jump into the pages and get to know these people! Richie’s voice was super smart, funny but then also filled with an earnest vulnerability Richie would totally deny himself?"
KIRKUS REVIEW— My fave line: None. They totally missed the point of the book.
Wise Young Fool
By Sean Beaudoin
August 2013/ Ages 14 and up/ $18
Smart-mouthed rock guitarist Ritchie Sudden forms a band and spends time in a juvenile-detention facility.
Ritchie’s first-person narrative alternates between two present-tense storylines. In one, he is locked in an institution he calls Progressive Progress, where therapists push him to keep a journal and hardened fellow detainees arrange fights for other boys to bet on. In the other, which takes place before his imprisonment, Ritchie and his friend Elliot Hella, “the dude too cool to know it, too weird to be popular, too hardcore to give a shit,” start a band in hopes of competing in Rock Scene 2013. The stylized narration moves quickly, littered with jokes and references, some clever, some oddly dated (“there’s the Bridge, which, yeah, is a bridge, but with no water underneath, troubled or otherwise”) and some jarringly harsh (“football is a concussion factory and cheerleaders are hot pockets of chlamydia”). Larger-than-life characters are mostly played to comic effect, often successfully: Chaos the bongo drummer (who pronounces his name “Chowus”) and El Hella himself are two standouts. Behind the music quest, sarcasm and pursuit of girls, however, lies a more complicated and often compelling story about family, grief and flawed coping mechanisms.
Hit-and-miss humor, but worth a read for budding rock stars.