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Mercy on These Teenage Chimps by Gary Soto
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Mercy on These Teenage Chimps

by Gary Soto

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Joey and Ronaldo are besties. They've known each other forever and hang out every day. They just turned thirteen and the craziest thing happened - they've turned into chimps. Okay. Well, not for realz chimps. But they sure as heck feel like chimps. You see, it's more figuratively speaking. Puberty onset, arms appear longer than body, ears stick out just so, the whole nine yards. And then the worst thing possible could happen: Joey gets embarrassed in front of his dream girl.

"Quit acting like such a monkey" the coach shouted while Joey climbed up the bleachers to capture the runaway balloon that Jessica lost grip of.

A monkey. If that's what everyone thought he was, then that's how he would live. The very next day, Joey climbs up the tree in the front of his house and decides that he's going to stay put. Ronaldo does not believe his best friend until he sees the truth. Joey has created a home up in the tree. Knowing he must help his bud out, he decides the only thing he can do is track down dream girl Jessica. Maybe if she tells Joey that he's not a monkey all will go back to normal.

This is a really quick fun read. If you have a reluctant reader this will probably pull them in. Especially a boy. It's not one of those books I'm gonna rave about, but I dig Soto, so sure check it out. ( )
  readingthruthenight | Mar 25, 2011 |
Reviewed by Mechele R. Dillard for TeensReadToo.com

How many books capture the angst of the teenage girl--her changing body, her constant mood swings, her unpredictable complexion and her yearning for attention from the boy of her dreams? Hundreds? Thousands?

Now, how many books take the opposite point of view--how many books go into the mind of the teenage boy and capture his frustration with his seemingly disproportionate body? His struggles to understand the "crooked road" that is life(p. 123)? And, of course, the blush of first love--unrequited, but first, nevertheless. As any reader of young adult fiction knows, books unabashedly delving into the struggles of life as a teenage boy don't come along often.

Author Gary Soto examines the everyday life of the adolescent male in MERCY ON THESE TEENAGE CHIMPS. According to newly-teenaged Ronnie, the transformation from boy to chimp begins on one's thirteenth birthday: "I
examined my reflection in the bathroom mirror. What was this? The peachy fuzz on my chin? The splayed ears? The wide grin that revealed huge teeth? ... I wiggled my ears. My nose appeared flatter than ever" (p. 1). And, so begins this inevitable leg of the transformation from boy to man.

The most intriguing aspect of this story is the sensitivity Soto explores in the characters of Ronnie and his best friend, Joey. Too often in our society, boys are taught that they are required to lose--or, at minimum, hide--their sensitivity, lest they be considered less of a man as they mature. Throughout the story, the reader is privy to Ronnie's innermost thoughts and fears, some of which he shares with Joey: "Do you think any girls will like us?" (p. 4) is one question met with silence from his best friend--well, silence and Joey's attempt to spit on his cat. Still, such raw honesty between males is eye-opening, refreshing, and too rarely conveyed in young adult literature.

At times, the constant stream of chimpanzee references become a bit grating, but the honesty of the characters trumps this particular negative. Soto's MERCY ON THESE TEENAGE CHIMPS works, for male and female readers alike, comforting adolescent males and assuring females that, yes, the boys have the same awkward, frightening fears as the girls, whether they are open about their feelings or not.

Have mercy! ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 12, 2009 |
At age thirteen, best friends Ronnie and Joey suddenly feel like chimps--long armed, big eared, and gangly--and when the coach humiliates Joey in front of a girl, he climbs up a tree and refuses to come down. ( )
  prkcs | Apr 3, 2007 |
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I, Ronaldo Gonzales, better known as Ronnie, was like any other boy until I turned thirteen and woke up as a chimpanzee.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0152062157, Paperback)

On his thirteenth birthday, Ronnie woke up feeling like a chimp--all long armed, big eared, and gangly. Now his best friend, Joey, has turned thirteen, too--and after Joey humiliates himself in front of a cute girl, he climbs a tree and refuses to come down. So Ronnie sets out to woo the girl on Joey's behalf. After all, teenage chimps have to stick together.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

At age thirteen, best friends Ronnie and Joey suddenly feel like chimps--long armed, big eared, and gangly--and when the coach humiliates Joey in front of a girl, he climbs up a tree and refuses to come down.

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