Thursday, April 15, 2010

Homeroom #1: Strange Times at Fairwood High

Just a quick note before I start. This book was really hard to read. Not because it was difficult, just because it was SO FREAKING BORING. Seriously, nothing happens until about the last 20 pages. For most of the book, there’s not really much in the way of plot just rehashed character “development” and it’s stupid. So forgive any lacklusterness please.

The whole “Homeroom” series, such as it is since as far as I can tell it only lasted three books, seems to be about some high school kids who happen to be in the same homeroom. Of all the ways to unify characters, this one just seems a tiny bit feeble, no? I am willing, however, to reserve judgment until I’ve actually managed to finish the book.

So the gist is sort of that, apparently, on the first day of school, a whole bunch of students‘s schedules got screwed up and the poor kids, in a tragedy almost too sad for words, were stuck without a homeroom. I mean, change that to “without a home” and I might be able to muster up a drop of sympathy but no homeroom? Please, they should be thrilled. Though maybe I only feel that way because I got yelled at in homeroom every day. (What? No one wants to hear the story? I guess I have to go back to the book. Damn.) So, basically there were no rooms left in the normal part of the school so the leftover kids were stuck in the Old School Dungeon. Or, rather, some room in an old, unused wing of the school (or something? Apparently there are several buildings not in use, so… I’m not exactly sure how this works. I am, however, entirely sure that I do not care).

Anyway, the story focuses on a few main characters. First, the main, main character, Piper Davids. Piper is blonde and I think we can assume that she’s pretty—she scores a date with Cute Guy Judd on the first day of school. Everyone else in Piper’s family is a million times more interesting than she is.

Then there’s Judd. Piper has a crush on him from the moment she first sees him and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Apparently he is cute so I guess that explains it. Judd’s one personality trait is that he’s a daredevil. The previous year, he climbed some water tower and it was all over the newspaper. Because of that, he has a great reputation among his classmates (they call him Superboy) and a terrible reputation as an absolute lunatic among people with brains.

Next up is Tamara, Piper’s new best friend. Tamara is from the small European country of Capria. As you can see, I have included a map of Europe below. If anyone can point out the location of Capria, I’ll be sure that person gets an A in homeroom. How’s that for incentive? No, really. Any guesses as to where this country is? I mean, Capria sounds a bit Italian but some dumb high school students are convinced Tamara is with the KGB. That’s because of her bodyguard and stuff (yeah, she has a bodyguard and soon you’ll know why!) so, not necessarily her accent but oh, who cares. Like it actually matters. Oh, just to sort of place the book in time, it was published in the late ‘80s, you know, towards the end of the Soviet Union, fall of the Iron Curtain, reunification of Germany and all that jazz.

So, I’m not really talking about Tamara, am I? When she and Piper first meet, Tamara says she’s sort of an exchange student. We learn later that her parents set her up with a house and servants and stuff, to experience a “normal” life, in a normal school, and, well, the West. (I guess? Someone PLEASE tell me where Capria is!) Tamara does let it slip to Piper that she’s a “prin”, at which point she catches herself and doesn’t finish the word. At this time, I request that you please stop reading and refer to the poll to your right (provided it’s still there. If not, feel free to continue reading).

Besides the happy triumvirate, there are some other people in homeroom who are pretty important. They just aren’t as special or awesome as the three already mentioned. And those characters are:

T. Craig: Yes, they actually call him that. He’s running for class president and he’s super annoying.

Tiffany: T. Craig’s main opponent (that we know of). She works at the mall, though that’s not terribly important, and Piper and Tamara support her candidacy and pretend to sort of work on her campaign.

Karen and Eddie: They’re not married or anything but they were dating for several months “last year”. They broke up because Karen is an actress and was supposed to go to some arts school. Eddie’s a grease monkey with a heart of gold. Eddie and Karen seriously do not get along. I’m willing to bet ten whole dollars (any takers?) that they’re dating again by the end of the series. Or that it’s implied that they will be. Despite being an actress, Karen is actually sort of cool. You’ll find out why later.

Cathy and Casey: Twins. One person in two bodies, like most good twins in “literature”. Obnoxious to the extreme. Plus, they’re not too bright. And by “not too bright” I mean the broccoli I just ate is probably smarter. Not to mention healthier than anything these two eat despite perpetual diets.

Last and probably least, Coach Talbot. The teacher, as much as an adult in a homeroom actually teaches. His real job is as a sports coach. Lucky bastard doesn’t actually have to teach or something as well, that was a requirement at my high school. Probably shouldn’t have been but whatever. Coach is apparently on the attractive side; Tamara totally has the hots for him.

On to the plot! So yeah, it’s mostly pretty stupid. Piper and Judd try to go on a date. On account of Judd’s daredevilness, Piper’s parents won’t let her go. Piper and Judd figure that maybe if Judd does something heroic, Piper’s parents’ll change their minds. So now we know that Judd’s going to do something heroic. Anyway, the two of them carry on their romance in the pantry of a house where Piper baby-sits (that doesn’t last and Piper gets blackmailed by the kid who walked in on them. Second favorite character in the book) and—where else?—in homeroom. They mostly send cutesy notes to each other about how parents who don’t approve of their child’s love can’t stop star-crossed lovers destined to be together for all eternity.

When the twins somehow catch on to the Piper/Judd situation, they decide to switch around the notes so that Judd gets a note from Piper (amazingly spelled “Pipper”) saying she doesn’t want to date him and he should go after one of the twins. Does anyone care which one? Judd is stupid enough to think the note is actually from Piper and there’s some confusion for awhile. Tamara’s the one who figures out the whole situation. Pretty impressive for someone who isn’t even American. She comes up with a plan for revenge. If you think it’ll be dramatic and exciting, you’re wrong.

Switching story lines a little. Over to Tamara who just wants to be normal. She can’t be, though, because she’s foreign. And a princess, oops, gave it away. Her plotline mostly has to do with Americanizing because there’s nothing in the world better than being American and dammit if those crazy Europeans don’t know it. Tamara is essentially a walking stereotype from the most stereotypical fake country ever. If I were Caprian (assuming that’s the proper demonym), I’d hate America. And this “Nancy Norton” person who apparently wrote this pile of shit. Piper takes Tamara to eat “fries” and shop for “jeans” at the “mall”.

Maybe more important than Tamara herself are the people around her. First there’s Adolfo, her “brother,” who is of course actually her bodyguard. He’s about as inconspicuous as a live blue whale sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower.
(well, I tried)
Then there are her servants but I’ve already forgotten their names. I think one is Maria.

The only really interesting part of the book is the big school dance. Piper and Tamara are the decorating committee and I wouldn’t mention it except that’s where they claim they’ll help Tiffany’s campaign by putting up posters of her face in the gym (where the dance is, of course). Turns out T. Craig’s father owns like a pumpkin patch or something and he donated tons of pumpkins with T. Craig’s name on them for decoration. The brilliant Tamara decides the lettering should face the wall which doesn’t make T. Craig too happy. See how boring this is? That’s, like, more interesting than anything that happened in the previous fifty pages.

So, yeah, the dance is a big deal. Tamara sort of hints to Coach that she’s going to ask him to dance. She never gets around to that, though, because of the Great Tragedy. Oh, yeah, before going to the dance, Adolfo is apparently sick and can’t drive Tamara (and Piper) so Tamara convinces him she can drive the car herself and that she’ll be perfectly fine without him for one night. Since this is a crappy YA book, we all know she won’t be.

God, I so want to just finish this thing. So the rest of this may not have too much detail. Anyway, remember when Tamara figured out that little scheme of the twins? Well, she and Piper believe they got even by sending back a “nasty” note. After that, Casey and Cathy were totally sweet to Piper (and Tamara) so the na├»ve idiots thought the twins had changed. Honestly, that’s pathetic. Thanks to my years as a Mean Girl (not really! I swear!) I know that Mean Girls are nice for exactly two reasons:

1. They want something from you.
2. They want to humiliate you.

Piper and Tamara don’t seem to know that. Well, of course Tamara doesn’t, she’s not American. *eyeroll* They think they’ve gotten their revenge and now everyone is even and happy. Of course, they’re wrong.

Now we head back to the dance where the twins tell Piper that Judd wants to meet her in the old gym that’s about to be torn down. Piper agrees to go and Tamara insists on going with her. Once the two are inside the gym, the twins lock them in which any idiot could’ve seen coming. It takes awhile for Judd to realize what the twins have done but once he does, he vows to get the trapped girls out. One other quick point: the old gym is in such bad condition that some beam falls and blocks the door so that, even if it were unlocked, the girls couldn’t get out. Remember when Judd and Piper figured that if Judd did something heroic maybe Piper’s parents would change their minds about him? Here’s his chance! Now who thinks Piper’s parents actually do change their minds? Or even that they should? Here’s the thing: they don’t. In fact, they think less of him than ever before.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. First the rescue. The gym has a skylight and Judd (and Karen) insist on dropping in on Piper and Tamara. Unfortunately, they can’t go back the same way because Judd hurt his ankle. Instead, they find some air duct or something and crawl through that. It eventually leads to the new gym (which I totally thought was in a different building) and the trapped ones plus Judd and Karen reenter the dance all covered in dirt.
They’re disappointed to have missed almost all of it, Tamara especially because she couldn’t dance with Coach. Turns out he’s engaged so that wasn’t gonna happen anyway. Oh, well.

The book ends with something along the lines of homeroom court in which the twins are sentenced to some torture at the upcoming Halloween fair. And there’s some joking discussion about what a group this homeroom is and it’s oh, so funny. Finally, there’s a preview for the next book which is apparently all about Tamara trying to assimilate. Guess she’s not done. I, however, am.

  • When the kids first enter homeroom, they call the room the Temple of Doom. I hope Indiana Jones is there.

  • On Fridays, cooking dinner is Piper’s responsibility because her mother works late. My feminist self does wonder just a tiny bit if Piper’s father is ever responsible for dinner. I mean, naturally the young girl is the ideal replacement but STILL.

  • Anti-feminist though he may be I think Piper’s father is maybe my favorite character in the whole book. He’s a laid-back former hippie who loves singing along to the oldies and I can’t help but love that. Apparently his favorites to sing with are Paul McCartney (post Beatles I guess) and The Supremes. You have to love a man who isn’t afraid to impersonate Diana Ross. I’d totally tell him to stop in the name of love.

  • Coach figures it’d be nice for him and the students to decorate the ugly homeroom with stuff from home. Poor Tamara who doesn’t understand American customs actually brings in something nice. Everyone else just brings their old crap.

  • Once when Piper goes over to Tamara’s house, Maria (I think) starts to address Tamara as “Your H” before seeing Piper and cutting herself off. So how do you think Maria was going to address Tamara? Your Holiness? Honor? Piper doesn’t catch on to the whole royalty thing…

  • When P and T (I’m so sick of typing out their names) go to the mall, P takes T to a health restaurant/juice bar. I should mention that this book takes place in California so I guess Nancy Norton is from the same school of stereotypes as Ann M. Martin. While there, T asks if maybe they have Caprian fippleberry juice. Fippleberry? That’s the best Ms. Norton could think of?

  • It’s very convenient that, at 16, Tamara is an excellent driver (in Capria). I’ve always thought that 16 isn’t all that common an age at which to start driving. I think in most countries in Europe you have to be 17 or 18 to drive a car. That’s terribly convenient for Tamara and the intended American audience.

  • While in the old gym, Tamara and Piper are afraid of being attacked by bats. Someone should explain to them that bats really don’t attack people.

There’s a ton of snarky goodness in this sucktastic book. I just can’t be bothered with it anymore. Although I still haven’t figured how my giveaways are going to work, I’m adding this one to the pile. I sure as hell don’t want to read it again.