Rating: 4 stars
“Slacker” by Gordon Korman is much like some of Korman’s other books. The main character is a kid who will be familiar to most of us — child or adult. Cameron (Cam) Boxer is, just like the eponymous title, a slacker. He doesn’t care about school, he doesn’t care about extracurricular activities, he just cares about playing video games.
His goal is to play in the Rule the World competition where the winner walks away with $10,000. His family’s furniture store is losing business because of the new mall outside of town, and the downtown is in trouble. To make matters worse, the ramp off the highway is slated to close, meaning that even fewer people would bother to go shopping in their town rather than going to mall with its immediate access from the highway.
But Cam has more immediate concerns. After an especially intense gaming session where his house almost burns down (because he didn’t turn off the oven), his parents grow concerned about the time that Cam spends in the basement on the computer. Cam, as the reader very quickly realizes, is hooked on playing games. He sneaks into the bathroom at school to play, and he plays every waking minute when he isn’t forced to do something else. His two best friends play with him, and his biggest frustration when playing is his arch-nemesis, Evil McKillPeople, who beats him at every single game. Every single one.
When his gaming is threatened, Cam and his two friends come up with a great idea — to form a fake club at school and make Cam the president. It’s called the P.A.G. club for Positive Action Group, and its purported intent is to make a difference by helping others. Cam’s friend hacks into the school network and soon the club has its own website. They are banking on the fact that no one really looks at the school website.
What the trio didn’t realize is that Daphne, a do-gooder student at their middle school, has been trying to think of a way to help the lone beaver in their town. After the town demolished the place where the beavers lived because of construction, most of the beavers moved on. One lone older beaver remained, whom she named Elvis, and she wants to help him. Daphne discovers the website and wants the PAG to help, She is not willing to be placated by Cam’s fervent efforts to put her off.
She goes to the school guidance counselor and soon the group has an (unwelcome) faculty advisor. Cam is not happy when more and more students find out about the club and want to join. Soon, the club is the most popular club in school and everyone wants to help. The club actually starts doing good things, and little by little, Cam realizes that he doesn’t have time to play his video games like he used to.
One member of the club is a student who was failing and kicked off the football team. His only chance to continue to play was to become involved. Like Cam, he had his own reasons for joining the club, but soon he was immersed in helping others. Another student joined to do his community service, but readers find out that there is more than meets the eye regarding this student.
The ending is not unexpected although there is a slight plot twist when Cam finds out who his arch-enemy is. But while the ending might be predictable, the story still has charm, humor, and some thoughtful themes. Friendship, altruism, and dishonesty are definitely just a few of the topics that groups could discuss when talking about “Slacker.”
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Scholastic Books for review purposes.