Most of the charm of Susan Juby’s newest novel for teens comes from the voice of her main character, Sherman Mack, one helluva kid living in Nanaimo, B.C., who thinks he can crack his high school’s big ugly secret. Think Harriet the Spy meets Sam Spade, with a good dose of Wayne’s World thrown in. Funny, honest, self-effacing, the Mack is the charmingly irresistible heart that beats behind Juby’s funny and immensely readable Getting the Girl.
Tired of seeing girls at his high school become “defiled” – that is, socially excommunicated from the student body, hated and punished for their supposed illicit acts – Sherman decides to become a P.I. and do what any decent guy like him would do: be all cool and stop it, while maybe getting a piece of action on the side. Hence the getting of the girl. And as the name of his detective agency – “Mack Daddy Investigators” – implies, he’s got a reputation to earn, provided he can remember to bring his pee bottle while he’s on a stakeout.
Juby’s take on Sherman and the teen male perspective rings true. She handles her main character deftly, crafting his voice and actions into heroic proportions. From Mack’s embarrassment over his bartending, burlesque-dancing mom to his ongoing commentary about his raging hormones and his various turn-ons and fetishes, his deadpan style is hilarious, resulting in equally hilarious stunts and escapades.
Sometimes Sherman’s hero status overshadows the other characters, but in the end, it is hard not to be as beguiled by him as everyone else in the book seems to be.