Leo Caraway’s defining moment came just before a class trip to Canada in fourth grade when, at the age of ten, he discovered that his dad wasn’t his biological father. Instead a Marion X McMurphy fathered Leo in a one-night stand his mother avoids talking about at all costs. Leo tells no-one but responds by embracing conformity, including membership in the Young Republicans group at school. From time to time though an inner demon he names McMurphy rises up and causes trouble.
Leo has no interest in his bio-dad until an act of selflessness results in the loss of his full-ride scholarship to Harvard. His need for $40,000 a year comes just as he discovers through best friend and goth-girl Melinda that McMurphy is better known as King Maggot, head of the seminal punk group Purge. Leo makes his way on to Purge’s comeback tour as a roadie and, while waiting for the paternity test to come back, gets to know his bio-dad and his life, if only because just hitting him up for the money seems crass. Over the next few weeks Leo learns more about himself than his bio-dad, and even finds love in an unexpected place.
I have loved all of Korman’s books but haven’t read any in several years. It’s surprising to me that they’re not better known, as they’re so accessible, particularly to young male readers – his protagonists are generally good guys placed in ridiculous situations despite their best efforts, most often through the actions of a thoughtless or reckless friend or acquaintance. Born to Rock has an older than usual hero but is otherwise the same. Which is not to suggest that Korman’s YA novels are identical – the enjoyment is in seeing the twists and turns he invests each book with.
It’s sadly too hot in Melbourne at the moment for me to be any more creative in my reviewing than this, but believe me Korman does not write in 43-degree heat, because his work sparkles with creative inventiveness, light touches of humour and realistic dialogue. Go, read him - Alex