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