Project: Boy Next Door
Being the son of a mega-famous mogul isn't all it's cracked up to be, which is why super-smart but socially awkward teen Melvin Pepper wants to try something new: anonymity. To attend a regular high school, get a normal job, meet real people. A break from the pressure and facade that come with crazy wealth and a world-renowned last name.
But Mel quickly realizes that being Mike, his alter ego, isn't as easy as he'd assumed. He gradually makes friends at work and school and becomes involved in the radio club, plus navigates the rocky waters of first crushes and first kisses. However, he discovers someone out there is on to his secret and is threatening to expose it.
And that's not all. One of Mel's new work friends is hiding a dark secret of her own, and Mel feels helpless to make things better for her. He struggles with juggling two very different identities, balancing jealous old friends and nosy new ones. Yup, Mel's in way over his head...and the only chance he has to make everything right is to be true to himself.
Publication Date: May 10, 2013
I was offered the chance to review this book and couldn't turn it down. This book is special because it's being published after the death of the author. Her husband really wanted to see this book published in her memory, and that's something I respect a great deal. I also wanted to review this book because I thought the premise was interesting. A teen boy, trying to hide his identity and live like a regular kid is a fresh take on the usual "regular teen girl finds out she's a princess" story that seems to be everywhere these days.
Mel (aka Mike) wants to do the unthinkable and attend a regular high school. Despite being the son of an extremely successful businessman, his father's desire to keep him out of the spotlight has led to his life being sheltered. Private tutors, few friends, and no chance of finding a girlfriend, despite the numerous "peaches" that flit in and out of his father's house. When he makes the decision to enrol in a local high school and get a part-time job, he knows that he has to do it undercover. It doesn't take long for him to realize that despite having the best of everything and having traveled the world, he actually knows very little about how normal teens interact and behave. He finds himself not only learning to navigate the ins and outs of life inside a high school, but juggling a part-time job as a busser in one of his dad's restaurants.
Reading from Mel's point of view gives an inside look at how he views the world around him, and how he second guesses his every action outside of the privileged surroundings he's used to. He learns the difference between attraction and real emotion, about friendship and loyalty, and that money can't always solve every problem. At times I felt that Mel was almost too perfect, especially after having led such a privileged lifestyle, but at other times I could feel the overwhelming loneliness of his life, and the way he was so dependent on money and connections to get anything accomplished. This book covers a lot of ground in a relatively short novel, but the story moves along nicely and I got a good feel for all of the characters.
Rating: Worth a Look
This book is a good choice for teens, both boys and girls. While the subject matter is a bit heavy at times (breast cancer, homelessness, an abusive relationship,) it's all handled with a skilled hand and there's nothing too graphic or disturbing. The book was edited before publishing, but the author didn't get a chance to do final edits, so who knows what might have been changed. There are a few spots where I felt the story was a bit weaker than the rest of the book, but overall I enjoyed it!
I received a complimentary copy of this title in return for an honest review.