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Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis

Bucking the Sarge

by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bucking the Sarge. 2004. 259 pp. $6.99. Wendy Lamb. 385-32307-7. Ages 13 & Up.
Luther T. Farrell is different from a lot of teens in Flint, Michigan. For starters, he is working on his third first place medal in the High School science fair, hoping to beat his crush Shayla yet again. He also has a drivers license that says he’s eighteen, and he gets to drive and $80,000 van. But the biggest difference in Luther T. Farrell’s life is his mother, or the Sarge, who expects Luther to work full-time running her men’s group home and helping out with her other nefarious business interests in exchange for contributions to his education fund - which Luther figures should have at least $90,000 for him to put to use to his education to become the world’s most famous philosopher. As much as the Sarge wants him to take over her business, Luther can’t bring himself to kick out tenants or condone the exorbitant interest rates on her “friendly neighbor loans.” When Luther betrays the Sarge’s business interests, it becomes Luther’s turn to take control of his life and buck the Sarge’s expectations - if he can escape alive. A vivid portrait of life in a city gripped by poverty and exploitation. Curtis brings a refreshing and unique voice of an African American teen who is highly intelligent, hardworking, and attuned to the immorality of the world he is trapped in. Reader’s will cheer for this underdog as he finally gains the courage to outwit his dictatorial mother. Highly recommended. Ages 13 & Up. ( )
  alovett | Nov 20, 2014 |
I knew that Christopher Paul Curtis was one of my favorite historical fiction writers, but boy, he can hold his own with contemporary fiction. Luther T. Farrell has one of the freshest 15-year-old voices I've read in a long time, and the story of how he outsmarts his mom (the Sarge) is both hilarious and heart-rending. ( )
  KimJD | Apr 8, 2013 |
RGG: Curtis targets the young adult audience with this new novel, but unsuccessfully. Convoluted and boring. Some references to male adolescent sexuality.
  rgruberexcel | Sep 2, 2012 |
Boy taking care of mother's group home; science project on lead paint; mother kicks him out
  aadkins | Jul 22, 2011 |
In this ALA Best Book for YA winner of 2005, Christopher Paul Curtis once again provides the reader with a very likable host of characters. Curtis' trademark is to portray serious subjects with poignant humor, and this book follows that standard.

Unlike his other books, Curtis does not delve into historical content. In this modern day story Luther T. Farrell has some problems. First and foremost his mother, nicknamed by him as "The Sarge" is an angry, mean spirited greedy woman. Her tough as nails hallmark to fame is that she is the proud owner of a series of slum housing projects. Also, in addition to being a slum land lady, she also runs a nursing home and scams the poor with her loan sharking schemes.

If there is a person to be bought, The Sarge has the cash and the means to do it. If there is a family in her project that cannot pay the rent, the Sarge will happily have her goon throw them out in the street. Using her middle school aged son Luther, aka Sparky as her servant, she forces him manage the nursing home.

Sparky is intelligent and quick witted and was to get the heck out of Flint, Michigan as fast as he can.

While I laughed when reading this well written book, in the end, it fell flat and wasn't up to the standard I've come to appreciate in this wonderful author. ( )
  Whisper1 | Feb 6, 2011 |
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To Shakira Chantelle Wilson and Darnell Lee Wilson And to the memory of my dear Uncle Sterling June Sleet
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Book description
Luther T. Farrell is a skinny, six-foot-four student at Whittier Middle School. He is actually fifteen, even though his driver's license says eighteen. Sparky is his best friend and foil. Luther is a success with science fair projects but less so with love (as evidenced by the well-aged condom in his wallet that he's named Chauncey). He quietly longs for romance with Shayla, the pretty and smart undertaker's daughter whom he's known forever. He's also big on making lists.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440413311, Mass Market Paperback)

Fifteen-year-old wannabe philosopher Luther T. Farrell knows a few things about life. He knows the Sarge (his rich, shrewd, slumlord mom) is tougher than nails and that he better not cross her. He knows his chances of using Chauncey, the ancient condom in his wallet, are slim to none. And, he knows that despite his goal to attend Harvard, he may end up stuck in Flint, Michigan, cleaning toilets in his mom's loathsome empire. Luther spends much of his time helping the Sarge run "Happy Neighbor Group Homes" around the city, including shaving and bathing elderly men and driving residents around with an illegal license. In spare moments he tries to win first place in the science fair at school and hang out with his best friend Sparky, all the while fantasizing mightily about his one true love, the beautiful Shayla.

Readers will be moved as Luther, a thoroughly decent if sometimes naive boy, rails against his mother's cold, ruthless notions of what it takes to get ahead in the world. Up-to-the-minute slang and pop culture references will resonate with teen readers, as will the funny, first-person narrative; crisp, often hilarious dialogue; and wonderfully vivid characters. Christopher Paul Curtis, winner of the Newbery Medal for Bud Not Buddy tells a warm, witty, heart wrenching story where the good guy gets his due. (Ages 12 and older) --Karin Snelson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:38 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Deeply involved in his cold and manipulative mother's shady business dealings in Flint, Michigan, fourteen-year-old Luther keeps a sense of humor while running the Happy Neighbor Group Home For Men, all the while dreaming of going to college and becoming a philosopher.… (more)

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