Kate Walden is a seventh grader with dreams of a Hollywood director career. She’s already made one movie, and is determined to make a second. However, a new boy moves into her school and decides to make a movie, too. From there, the complications mount as she strives to show up the newcomer while scrounging for actors, props, and locations…and dealing with bullies and friend-issues. Ah, the simplicity of middle school.
Even though institutional school is an experience I never shared, the characters still held a realism I could relate to. All people want to be liked. All people want to have friends, and get along with their friends. And finally, the drama of people’s lives is very often of their own making. It’s very easy to read things (good or bad) into other people’s actions, even for adults.
All of the kids displayed dichotomous sides to their personalities, from the melodramatic nerd to the bully with a crush. Kate and her brother demonstrate that fantastic enigma of “Jerk, I could throttle you if I didn’t love you so much, you sweet little thing”. It’s the paradigm of sibling-hood, stripped straight from the pages of our own lives and placed into the fictional lives of these characters.
I also appreciate the portrayal of Kate’s parents. She’s still a kid, unsure at times what she should share with them, and feeling ashamed of their un-coolness. Nevertheless, they are staunch allies: helping her with her movie project, pointing out her faults when she messes up, and solidly standing by her no matter what, just like parents should.
I must admit, I’ve been a little leery of first-person-present-tense writing, perhaps because of its recent popularity (not fair, I know). However, Mrs. Mata’s book has pulled this difficult voice off effortlessly, in a manner that makes you forget you’re reading an unconventional tense. The narrative flows along, bound up in the story, and lets you immerse yourself in Kate Walden and her world as she sees it.
Finally, Bride of Slug Man is more than a school or friendship/middle-grade romance story (to me). It’s a story about making movies! Not everyone shares the same obsession. Mine is novel writing; Kate Walden’s is making movies. I can relate to the fun of making art, the thrill as you experiment with new techniques or try to get a certain effect. Kate’s movie starts with learning to make slime (for the titular Slug Man), but goes on to wrestle alien costumes, UFO special effects, casting issues, lighting, camera angles… It got me wishing I could make a movie, myself. The joy of creation, and the danger of losing that joy if your motivations get tangled, is something that rings very true for me.
This book might be middle grade fiction, but it’s not just for kids. It’s a realistic tale of interpersonal relationships, artistic pursuits, and the issues we can create for ourselves in our own minds. Plus, it’s funny, fast-paced, and absorbing.
Disclaimer: I won a free copy of Bride of Slug Man via a raffle on Rochelle Melander’s blog WriteNowCoach.com. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. See the cool book trailer for Bride of Slug Man here. Author Julie Mata’s website is JulieMata.com: here.
Cover is used with permission of the author.