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Review: “33 Minutes. . .Until Morgan Sturtz kicks my butt” by Todd Hasak-Lowy

May 20, 2013

No one is at their best in middle school. Everything is changing, from bodies to school routines to relationships, and no one navigates it gracefully. Everyone is a jerk sometimes, friends are made, and some are lost forever. “33 Minutes . . .Until Morgan Sturtz Kicks My Butt” is a story about one smart, slightly annoying but hilarious middle school boy and his quest to figure out what went wrong in his oldest friendship. It is not a bully book or a moralistic tale, but a chronicle of what happens when friends hurt each other.

“If some evil person wanted to make the Wagner Middle School cafeteria an even louder echo chamber, could such a person find a single change to make? The walls, the floors, the tables, the trays, the heads of the students inside: hard, flat, cruel. Yes, I know, those are (supposedly) sound-proofing tiles up there on the ceiling, but I’m not fooled. Because the moment you step inside this rotten mealtime cavern, you may as well be at a jackhammer convention.”

Sam is a brilliant kid, perhaps the smartest at Wagner Middle School. He and Morgan Sturtz have been best friends for a long time, but when Morgan starts growing and getting into football, Sam stays small and loves math. Through the intervention of a malicious (and admittedly one-dimensional) third “friend,” they start drifting apart until “the incident,” after which Morgan declares that he is going to kick Sam’s butt at recess. The book chronicles just a few short moments in one day of Sam’s life, but engagingly unravels the break-down of their friendship over the course of a school year.

In “33 Minutes,” Todd Hasak-Lowry is brilliant at capturing the essence of middle school and making it funny. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard reading a book, unless it was during my Dave Barry phase while I was in middle school. It’s not just a funny book, either. It’s painful and sad and does a fabulous job of portraying the shifting of friendships and character that comes with growing up. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes to laugh, who is in middle school, was ever in middle school, or really enjoyed “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” 

School Library Journal recommends this book for grades 5-8.

–Andrea W., H.Q.

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