Recap: As young teenagers, we all made mistakes, but not like middle schooler Deuce Delaney. Deuce — whose real name is Mansfield, but prefers “Deuce” — sets off stink bombs, steals money to buy tranquilizer guns, and does some of the normal teenage stuff too, like smoking, drinking, and terrorizing his younger sister.
In this modernized story about the ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf,’ Deuce starts off as a boy with an imaginative mind. He thinks he sees a ghost or creature near his secret hiding spot in the woods. He follows clues through a sewer to find out what the creature is. But the story quickly moves past the ghost story to one of a boy who can’t escape trouble. Deuce is constantly being grounded. He gets his friends into trouble. In an attempt to do well, he joins clubs but is soon kicked out of them. He gets suspended from school, fails a class, and has to attend summer school. And that’s where he meets another troubled boy like himself, named Russell.
That’s when things start to escalate. When Deuce tries to put out a fire in his school, he is blamed for starting it. He realizes that Russell probably had something to do with it. But Russell mysteriously dies, and Deuce is the only one who knows how. He must prove it to those who don’t believe him.
Analysis: Deuce Delaney is a coming-of-age story, combined with mystery, action and thriller. Sadly, the most exciting parts of the novel are saved for the beginning and end. Upon beginning the book, Delaney reminded me of Now and Then in that it combined themes of growing up with uncovering a mystery. But that ghost/creature story was completely dismissed until the end.
Much of the middle of the novel was devoted to Deuce’s mishaps and troublemaking. I understand that this is what the author, Michael Murray, intended. Showing what a “bad kid” Deuce is serves to explain why people in authority positions wouldn’t believe him in the end when he uncovers the mystery. But while this character-developing portion of the book serves a purpose, it’s very long; so long, in fact, that the reader forgets about the “creature” from the beginning altogether.
That being said, the writing itself is well-done. Told in first person, the author does a good job of writing or speaking as a 13-year-old would. It’s a little disorganized, but very self-centered and straightforward, which is fitting for Deuce’s personality. At the end, Deuce proves his point, but it leaves me wondering how much he really learned and if he grew from this experience at all.