Monday, June 13, 2011

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander

This book has an unusual plot, and I gave it a rating of four out five. Mac and Vince are sixth-graders who help fellow students with their problems, for a fee. Mac's office is in the fourth stall of the East Wing's unused bathroom. He helps kids with test answers, money problems, and getting into R-rated movies, among other things. The main conflict arises when an elementary school student tells Mac that he has been threatened by Staples, a bully who everyone thought was a myth. Staples is starting a gambling business in the elementary/middle school building, and he uses threats of violence to get his money. Mac decides to help the student with the threat, because he also doesn't like the idea of Staples taking over "his" building. The problem worsens when Mac and Vince discover Staples is much older than them, and he has high school students as part of his posse. The two boys don't discover until later just how dangerous Staples can be. They realize that Staples always seems to be one step ahead of them, and they suspect there may be a spy among their group.
The plot was interesting, because it described secret "worlds" within the school, and all of the adults were unaware of their existence. Mac and Vince's business was stressed to the breaking point, and their friendship crumbled along with it. Vince added humor to the story whenever he talked about his grandmother. Mac added some funny moments too during the many times when he was about to be beaten by the older boys. Their ongoing challenge to stump each other with Chicago Cubs trivia, at some of the oddest points in the story, was enjoyable for fans of baseball. The themes of friendship and loyalty are key to the story and are important in the solution of the main conflict, Staples.

Lexile level from 760

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