I just read my favorite young adult novel in quite some time: A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie, the first book by teacher-author Matt Blackstone. The story is a journey inside the head of Rene Fowler, a lonely, frustrated, dreaming teenager dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Rene’s voice is distinctive and unique and he leads the reader on a character-driven trip worth taking.
First lines of the book:
Legs are my favorite part. I never snap them off with a single bite. I nibble on them slowly as I work my way up. I crunch bony ankles, gnaw on slender calves. Knees are a delicacy; canine teeth are ideal for chipping cartilage. Thighs - oh sweet, sweet thighs - must be savored, eaten like a sacred drumstick. Thick and long and often hairy, a torso is best swallowed whole. The neck is delicious, but fragile: one bite and all I have left is a tiny head resting on my fingertips.
Animal crackers. They’re a great snack, but they aren’t great company. Real animals make better pets. Dogs are a man’s best friend, but I am allergic to dogs. I am allergic to cats, guinea pigs, ferrets, gerbils, parrots, sheep, horses, and goats. So I chose bugs.
Rene is an exhausting but rewarding protagonist. His story in A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie is best enjoyed in one intense immersion, which is how I used to enjoy my favorite books when I was fifteen.
Rene struggles with navigating outsiderhood at school, an estranged father, a sympathetic teacher experiencing a breakdown, an unrequited crush, and seething animosity for groups of peer villains dubbed “Bigbulletholes” and “Devilblackcoats.” Events take a turn for Rene when he links up with charismatic Gio, and then the book soars in its final act when the two teens embark on an exhilarating if misbegotten escape to New York City.
This book is a winner for teen readers. I wish I’d had it around when I was fifteen.
Blackstone still teaches high school English in the South Bronx. Writing a book that honestly and engagingly portrays students' (and teachers') inner lives = True teacher leadership.
The whole first chapter of A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie is available here.