Allison's Book Bag

How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen

Posted on: July 16, 2014

Earlier this summer I went on a search for the best current middle school realistic fiction. As part of that search, I checked out recommendation lists and came up with a few titles. The first is the hilarious and heart-warming How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen. When I contacted Allen, she said, “I hope you’ll enjoy reading about Lamar”. I definitely did! Lamar is a unique character. He also gets himself into deep trouble, but isn’t alone in making mistakes. Those two factors combined are what created the high appeal to me of Allen’s debut novel.

Thirteen-year-old Lamar is the maddest, baddest, most spectacular bowler at Striker’s Bowling Paradise. Or so Lamar describes himself. From his bowling scores, it’s a pretty accurate description. The problem is that bowling isn’t what counts with Lamar’s friends, his family, or even his town of Coffin. What counts with his best bud Sergio is an ability to hook up with a girl. Unfortunately, Lamar has spent the better part of his thirteen years playing pranks on girls. Now whenever he asks one out, and he’s asked at least eight, they all think he’s joking with them. What counts with his family, or at least with Lamar’s older brother, is being number one in basketball. Xavier has earned trophy after trophy on the basketball court. He’s won so many trophies that they fill all but one space on the fireplace mantle in the family living room. That space is supposedly reserved for Lamar’s bowling trophy, but Xavier is coveting it too. Finally, what counts with Coffin is also…. Basketball. The town has never hosted a professional bowling tournament or even had a pro bowling league. In Lamar’s words, “one can’t live or die in Indiana without some kind of hoops connection”. Even newborns leave the hospital and deal folk leave this world dressed in basketball gear.

Lamar sets out to improve his life. For starters, he tries again with the girls, this time with a soccer goddess. When Makeda reminds Lamar that he used to know her and prank her, he doesn’t walk away but instead gallantly apologizes. Even later, when Sergio heaps disdain upon Lamar for his choice, Lamar hangs the course and convinces Makada that he’s changed. So far, so good. Lamar also tries to become the “most athletic, smoothest, baddest dude” in Coffin. Only he faces some overwhelming obstacles with that choice such as his asthma, his competitive brother, and the town’s lack of interest in bowling as a sport. Fortunately, Lamar gets some unexpected help. Courtesy of the best bowler in the world, Bubba Saunders, Striker’s Bowling Paradise hosts a contest with the grand prize of Pro Thunder Bowling Gear. At the same time, Lamar meets Billy Jenks, who invites Lamar to team up with him to earn money through bowling. One of these choices is worse than the other. In fact, it’s such a bad choice that Lamar ends up finding himself handcuffed and being led away from his brother’s basketball game by the police.

What makes How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy to shine as a mad, bad, spectacular example of fiction is how Allen handles the aftermath of Lamar’s ultimate bad choice. First, while both his dad and the town impose some pretty serious consequences, they aren’t so punitive that Lamar has no ability to recover. Second, Lamar has opportunity to show his true colors, when faced with other negative consequences of his actions: Sergio’s birthday celebration at Holiday World is ruined, Xavier’s opportunity at a scholarship is lost—perhaps forever, and Makada no longer trusts him. Third, through the intertwining of other story lines, Allen shows the complexity of how bad choices are made. For example, Xavier’s physical aggression towards Lamar is finally brought to light. Their dad also finally realizes that he has inadvertently favored Xavier over Lamar. At the same time, Allen never flinches from laying blame on Lamar, which is squarely where it belongs. Through the intertwining of story lines, Allen succeeds on another level too. She correctly points out that everyone makes mistakes. While some may be worse than others, nonetheless we all have our errors in judgment to overcome and choices to make about how we want to live.

Allen has written a page-turning novel about bowling and about relationships. In a light-hearted way, she has also introduced romance. How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy will be a worthy addition to any middle grade fiction collection.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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Summer Reviews

Books can take connect us with strangers, take us to unique places, and introduce us to new ideas. They can also offer hope in a chaotic world. And so I must share what I read!

Each week, I’ll introduce you to religious books, Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, or diversity books. Some I’ll review as singles and others as part of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression by Joni Eareckson
  • The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
  • Brothers in hope : the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan–refugees by Mary Williams
  • The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee

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