David Lubar. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie. Speak, 2007 (reprint). ISBN 978-0142407806 288 pp. $
Lubar excels at funny lists, so it’s no surprise that his protagonist does too. This deeply layered comic novel strings together multiple subplots and several narrative forms, including diary entries, dialogue, and lists, to a carefully plotted and believable conclusion. Scott Hudson, an ordinary guy anxious about being a freshman, somehow manages to have an extraordinary year as he tries to get Julia, the girl of his dreams to notice him by pursuing her through her extracurricular activities. With comedic timing, he’s always just a little bit off and his plans go awry. Plus, his parents drop the bombshell that Mom is expecting, and her pregnancy cravings and mood swings add another element of humor to the story.
Being a nice guy gets Scott in trouble regularly: he donates his lunch money to a thug, says “yes” to projects he’d rather not take on, and can’t bring himself to tell the freaky goth girl, school bully or an excessively verbose acquaintance to go away. His mishaps and letters to his unborn brother/sister and the rotation of Spanish language teachers, most of whom can’t speak enough English to teach Spanish, are laugh-out-loud funny. The best scene is when the gym teacher takes over the Spanish class, and makes the students take a pushup break halfway through–“But we got to count in Spanish,” says Scott.
Other high points include a point of view exercise that takes us from third person omniscient back to first person limited, and Scott (or Lubar!) breaking the rule that one never finds expository, descriptive, narrative, persuasive and writing in one spot. The information Scott imparts to his fetus sibling, the description of high school hell, the narrative of the ups and downs of Scott’s life and Lubar’s proven argument that life is a constant state of flux, begs to differ.
The very literary elements to the novel make this a perfect choice for curriculum. Scott is a reader who loves to experiment with words, and we get a smattering of poetry, some Tom Swifties, and SAT words, but always without pretension. Characters have depth that is slow to reveal; no one is who they appear to be, and they evolve throughout the novel, as does our hero, from Scott’s underachiever big brother Bobby to quirky Lee to talkative “Mouth.” Someone, awkward Scott learns the tough lesson that things change with grace as well as humor. And Lubar epitomizes coming of age milestones like the first slow dance with brilliant lines like “the dance lasted a lifetime, but it ended in an eyeblink.” Recommended for public and school library collections serving middle and high school students.