Vancouver author Stacey Matson’s second instalment in the Genius trilogy (following A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius) once again finds Arthur Bean, our excitable and ambitious hero, struggling with unpopularity, integrity, creativity, and just plain getting through Grade 8. This time, Arthur has set his sights on conquering the film world, and is determined to create the blockbuster zombie/werewolf/alien movie that will finally make him famous.
The story is told as a modern tween epistolary (a mix of homework, school newspaper assignments, email, letters, and text messages) complete with realistic misspellings and misnomers. Arthur communicates with his best friend, his new girlfriend, his previous love interest, and his teachers. With each, he takes on a slightly different tone, adapts his interests, and shifts his priorities.
At its core, this is a story of a kid growing up, figuring out who and what he cares about, and the style serves that goal well. We only get the Arthur he wishes to portray – with his girlfriend, Anila, his passion is for serious environmental causes; with his best friend, Robbie, he cares more about shoot-’em-up Hollywood movies. Events are discussed in anticipation or recollection of plot points that occur between entries, and sometimes the reader must piece together what happened based on reactions from multiple characters.
This book is an ideal tool to jumpstart a conversation about the subtleties of social interaction and how people communicate, while still being a light and funny read.