Putting Boys on the Ledge
It’s hard to know what to say about a book that’s only 170 pages long. There’s not much room for character development and only minimal plotting – which effectively describes Putting Boys On The Ledge. With its “After School Special” feel, and its unconvincingly teenaged narrative voice, the book has little to recommend it.
Blue (short for Blueberry) Waller is a high school freshman. When she meets gorgeous senior Heath at auditions for the school musical, she’s sure she’s made a fool of herself. So why does Heath act interested in her? Another worry is how she’s going to maneuver around her parents, eccentric hippies who stick their noses into everything. And now there’s Colin, the cute guy her parents hired to help out with the family’s managerie of animals. He’s so not her type. Or is he?
The first major problem I had with this book is that it reads far less as if the narrator is a teenager than a grown woman trying to sound like a teenager. Since it’s a first-person narrative, this is particularly off-putting. Second, there is basically no character development whatsoever. None of the characters, including the main one, get more than a cursory introduction to the reader, and not a single one of them grows. Certainly not the narrator, who simply moves from one infatuation to another. Third, the author clearly gives teenagers no respect, as boys – either Heath or Colin – represent the entirety of Blue’s thoughts, all the time. Now, I was about as boy-centric as you could be at that age, but I had a lot of other thoughts, too. Blue doesn’t. Which means that she has no character, since the boys themselves have less actual characterization than, say, SpongeBob SquarePants.
Aside from these major issues, the plot – such as it is – is pretty laughable. On second thought, it doesn’t even make “After School Special” rating, since those plots at least have points, trite and heavy-handed though they usually are. This book is all that, just without the point. Blue’s life is terribly hard. She tries out for the school play and gets it. Then she gets an instacrush on a senior and he asks her out. And not only that, but another cute senior looks interested, too. Her parents threaten to forbid her to be in the play and date older boys, but their ultimate solution is to hire someone to do her chores so that she can be in the play, and buy her a cell phone so they can keep better track of her. A cell phone that she can only use to call them. Well, and her friends. So what exactly, does Blue overcome? Um, nothing, really. There is no obstacle, no victory, no growth, no change. And no story.
Other than the fact that you can zip through Putting Boys on the Ledge in an hour or so (if you can get past its unlikely “I’m a teenager! Really, I am!” style), there’s not anything positive I can say about the book – and yet it’s not “bad” enough to warrant F status. There are lots of excellent YA novels out there that deliver great stories, full of drama, comedy, romance, adventure, learning, and life. Pick up one of those instead, and leave this one on the shelf.