Move Over, Beowulf. It’s Grendel’s Time to Shine.

Lynn: Move over, Beowulf. Grendel is the hero in Grendel’s Guide to Love and War: A Tale of Rivalry, Romance, and Existential Angst (2017), A. E. Kaplan’s humorous take on the classic tale.

Seventeen-year-old Tom Grendel is no monster. He likes his quiet life in a peaceful suburb largely populated by old ladies. He runs a lawn-mowing business, watches over an army-major dad struggling with PTSD, and Grendel's Guide to Love and War: A Tale of Rivalry, Romance and Existential Angst by A. E. Kaplanhangs out with his wine-making-obsessed best friend, Ed Park. Missing his mother, who died when he was only nine, Tom ponders deep issues, like how to really know someone, how to preserve memories, and whether it is possible to love someone you don’t truly know.

Then an obnoxious jerk moves in next door. Rex throws loud, drunken, jarring parties that destroy the quiet of the neighborhood. Tom’s dad can’t handle the noise, so he flees on a self-imposed business trip, leaving an increasingly sleep-deprived Tom behind. The parties have to stop! And so begins a prank war that escalates out of control, wins new recruits to both sides, and changes Tom’s world.

Kaplan’s fast-paced story is sweet, but also laugh-out loud hilarious.  Tom won my heart on page one, and I loved the whole endearing cast of wacky characters. The accelerating prank war keeps the pages flying, and there’s a romance, too, which Kaplan handles with a nice, light touch. Knowing the story of Beowulf isn’t essential, but does add to the fun. In her author’s note, Kaplan explains how Beowulf inspired her to create her own story about blood feuds, which alone may get some teens to read the classic story.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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