Down & Out Books, PB, $15.95, 230 pages, ISBN 978-1-948235-93-8
Don’t let the title fool ya, Seven Ways to Get Rid of Harry, by Jen Conley is real crime fiction. It’s also YA, Young Adult, fiction which can be enjoyed by all of us Boomers and Gen Xer’s who’ve forgotten what it was like to be in our early teens. It’s written in the first person perspective of a thirteen year-old kid named Danny Zelko, who’s almost fourteen, and he’s got a problem. A big problem named Harry, his mother’s boyfriend. He’s a creep who torments the kid by locking him out of his mother’s house, calls him Danielle and stays drunk most of the time. He’s mean to Danny’s mom when he drinks and causes her to forget all about her kids. Danny’s getting in trouble at school too . . . fighting and acting out, even being disrespectful, which he never was before. And it’s all Harry’s fault as far as Danny is concerned. His mom always acted like a proper mother before Danny’s father died.
So, when his sister Lisa tells Danny that Harry and their mother are planning on getting married, it’s too much. Danny decides he’s gotta do something about it. He can’t let that happen to his mother, sister and him. And so, Danny—while sitting in the principal’s office, serving an in-school suspension for fighting—decides to take matters into his own hands by making written plans for ways to get rid of Harry. He comes up with seven in all, some are funny, some are pathetic, and some are criminal. It’s only when he tries to put his plans into action that things upend and Danny’s tough life becomes downright grim . . .
But you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out if the smart, plucky and determined kid succeeds in his Quixotic quest to save them all. Ms. Conley drew the MBR’s interest with her first effort entitled Cannibals: Stories from the edge of the Pine Barrens, and her sophomore publication proves that she’s got the chops to make a dramatic impact on the literary world. Stay tuned to see what she comes up with next.