Naperville: Sourcebooks, 2018 (304 pages)
Rod is the lead singer of Fanged Grapefruit, a punk band that he created with friends Mel(vin) and Clarissa. Rod’s girlfriend Audrey is in charge of merch. Rod is gearing up for the summer, looking forward to more band practice in his garage and more Monday night gigs at the Lane, aspiring to maybe get gigs on Friday someday. All seems to be going great, that is until Rod’s mom breaks the news that cousin Blake from California will be staying with them through the end of the school year and over the summer while his wealthy parents go on a luxury cruise. Rod grumbles, but gamely cleans his room to prepare for the guest’s arrival. Maybe it won’t be so bad. It’s just a few months of sharing a cramped room with a cousin you didn’t like ten years ago and doubt you’ll like now. Then the U-Haul arrives with 42 boxes of Blake’s stuff. Blake and his band mates have to move the music equipment to make space in the garage. Then Blake himself arrives, with so many suitcases that Rod is going to need to make two trips to the airport to pick them up. It maybe wouldn’t be so bad if it were just the boxes and suitcases, but Blake is an entitled brat. Unfortunately, he only acts this way around Rod, so everyone else thinks that Rod is making things up when he complains about Blake’s taking over his room, his expectation that Rod will act as his manservant, etc. To them, Blake is polite and charming. To Rod, Blake is slowly turning into less of a problem and more of a nemesis. Things start really taking on steam when Blake gets Rod in trouble at school for throwing rat guts on him when Blake did it to himself. When Blake refers to himself as Fanged Grapefruit adviser, Rod tries to put his foot down, but then the audience at the Lane swells to 50 people and the group mates are amazed and gratified, until Rod realizes that Blake probably bribed all those people to come. He can’t prove anything, but it certainly feels like Blake could do anything. And soon enough, he does: Audrey calls Rod crying because Rod sent Gretchen poems. Rod reassures Audrey that Blake is trying to ruin his life and his next step is probably trying to get Audrey to break up with Rod. Then Audrey calls because Rod was seen talking to Bernadette Springer, then texting Lorelei Michaels, then parking his car in front of Shannon Calmone’s house. Rod has had enough. He asks Audrey over to prove that he’s not doing anything wrong, but as he’s waiting for her, Jennifer Render shows up. And won’t go away. When Audrey finally gets there, Rod’s so flabbergasted, he can’t defend himself and Audrey really does break up with him. Rod confronts Blake, and Blake confirms that he rigged the breakup, but for Rod’s own good. Unbelievable. And now Blake has fantastic news for the band: he has scored 3 incredible gigs for an upcoming weekend. Everyone’s parents have agreed to let them go as long as they are back to go to school the following day. Despite Mel and Clarissa’s good feelings, and despite Blake’s reassurance that stardom means Rod will have his pick of girls, Rod’s not convinced. If Blake is out to ruin his life, it only stands to reason that part of it will be sabotaging the gigs. Little does Rod realize that the person who will ensure that the band takes a nosedive is Rod himself. He’s so sure that Blake is up to something, that he flails on every one of the three performances. Mel and Clarissa decide to quit the band. The next day at school, Rod is barely functional. He’s lost his girl, his band, and he can’t even open his locker. When he sees Blake standing by his car, waiting for a ride home, Rod snaps. He’s had it. Instead of heading home, he will be driving Blake back to California. Rod tosses Blake’s phone out the window, and they’re off. Yes, it’s crazy, but Rod realizes that it’s the only way to go to get Blake out of his life. Then the car breaks down. The boys get out, and have a satisfying, but lame fistfight, during which Blake finally admits to trying to ruin Rod’s life, admits that he did it out of jealousy, and tells Rod that he bet himself a year’s worth of ice cream that he could do it. In rage, Rod punches Blake, sending him towards the busy road. Rod pushes Blake out of danger’s path. Blake is astounded that Rod saved his life. Rod tells him that he would have done it if it were the other way around, and Blake disagrees. Then a semi truck honks and Blake grabs Rod to pull him to safety. The boys (mainly Blake) apologize and somehow make it back home. The band gets back together, and maybe Rod still has a chance with Audrey. We’ll see. Rod actually keeps in touch with Blake, recognizing that the events certainly made for a good story.
Tags: family, friendship, humor, modern fiction, relationships, clean read, music