A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius – Stacey Matson
Arthur believes that he is destined to become a famously rich novelist. The first step in his journey to literary greatness will be winning the school writing contest, which will also (hopefully) distract him from the untimely death of his mother. Unfortunately, Arthur can’t come up with a good story, unlike his beautiful writing partner Kennedy, who he’s sure will ditch her popular boyfriend and fall in love with him sometime soon. Even Robbie Zack, Arthur’s nemesis, has an idea! As the competition draws closer, and as his father drifts further and further away, how far with Arthur go to win?
Release Date: November 3rd, 2015
Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review! And thanks to the kind people (especially Kathryn Lynch) at Sourcebooks for providing a giveaway – head to the bottom of the post for your chance to win a copy (open to Canada and the US until November 30th!).
A few months ago, I went on a Susin Nieslen binge, and this would have been the perfect follow-up!
What I liked:
-I’m a sucker for epistolary books to begin with, which is probably one of the reasons why I requested this. It wasn’t just standard journal entries – there were emails and classroom notes and sometimes cute little drawings. Love it!
-the plot was cute and relatively simple, but it had a lot of heart and there were some sad moments. It had that bittersweet quality that, in my opinion, all good contemporary middle grade fiction should have (hence the Susin Nielsen comparison).
-Arthur was a strong character – you really got a sense of his personality from the very first page (check out the excerpt from chapter one at the end of this post!). And while you don’t know much about his dad, there’s enough to form an understanding of their relationship and how it changed after Arthur’s mom died.
-Arthur’s struggle with writing, in particular his great ideas but inability to put them on the page, really spoke to me as an aspiring writer myself. It was easy to relate to him as he tried to figure out a way to get around his writer’s block in time to enter the school story-writing contest.
-his “love interest” Kennedy and rivalry with Robbie Zack was funny and age-appropriate (I sound so old when I say stuff like that). It was cute and innocent and provided a lot of the humour, including Kennedy’s enthusiastic emails.
What I didn’t like:
-Arthur could be frustrating in his obstinate way. I understood that it was a quirk in his personality and all good characters have flaws, but there were a couple of times when I just wanted to yell at him. Like you would with a normal 13 year old, I suppose.
If you’re looking for a quick but satisfying middle grade read, this is a wonderful option! Stacey Matson’s writing is charming and will draw you right into Arthur’s world.
Excerpt from A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius:
The Next Great Bestselling Novel (Title to be announced)
By Arthur Bean
Once upon a time there was
There was once a
A long time ago
America is awesome! This is because
A boy and his unicorn sat on the grass and the unicorn could talk and said
Murder! There’s been a very violent murder!
Dear Ms. Whitehead,
As you know, I haven’t been in class yet, but my next-door neighbor Nicole suggested that I write you a letter since I will be starting soon. I don’t really know what to write to you. Maybe I will tell you a little about myself so that you feel like I started school at the same time as everyone else.
My name is Arthur Aaron Bean, but I normally just go by Arthur. I spent the summer at my grandparents’ house in Balzac. It was a long summer. I actually live in one of the apartment buildings pretty close to the school. I like to knit and watch movies, sometimes at the same time. I’m a very good multi-tasker. I like creative writing, so I hope that we will do that and that I didn’t miss it. I was probably the best writer in my elementary school, and I plan on getting rich as a novelist when I’m a grown-up. I don’t have any siblings, but my cousin Luke is kind of like my twin brother.
My most profound work so far is the heartwarming story called “Sockland.” In this short story, a little boy climbs into the dryer during a game of hide-and-seek with his older brothers. He is accidentally shrunk and crawls through the dryer vent into Sockland. Sockland is a land where missing socks go to live. He enjoys it for a while, but then finds that single socks are very boring, and needs to find a way to get home. He then gets the socks to help him by promising to send their partners through the tunnel, and he crawls back up into the dryer to rejoin humanland.
Mrs. Lewis said it was highly original and that I showed real promise in becoming the next J.K. Rowling. The secretary told me that I’m in a class with some of the people from my elementary school so that I would feel more comfortable. Actually, she didn’t say people, she said some of my friends. This may seem weird, because I wasn’t really friends with a lot of the people in my elementary school. Actually, most of my friends went to the Catholic school next door to our school, and so I saw them all the time. I did have a couple of friends like Oliver, but mostly I wasn’t friends with people in my elementary school class. Besides, who would want to be friends with guys like Robbie Zack? I’m not friends with people who spell thoughts as thots. Good luck with that one. He’s what my mother called “a handful of trouble with a capital T.”