HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Boy Who Drank Too Much
Author: Shep Greene
Publisher: Laurel Leaf, republished in 1984
ISBN-13: 978-0812425611 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0812425618 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0440904939 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0440904935 Paperback
Language level: 5
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Said to be for ages 12 and up, but I would say only 16 and up (unless you want your 12-year old reading about scoring in bed with a girl)
Rating: ** 2 stars (POOR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Greene, Shep The Boy Who Drank Too Much (published in 1980 by The Viking Press, New York City, NY; republished in 1984 by the Laurel Leaf Library, an imprint of Del Publishing, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Group Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York City, NY 10036). The narrator, whose name never appears, is a fifteen year old boy who lives with his parents in Chicopee (probably in Massachusetts) and plays high school hockey. His best and oldest friend since Cub Scouts at age seven is Art, a fellow hockey player whose girlfriend is Tina; they have been dating since seventh grade. He meets a new girl in school named Julie. There is also a new boy named Buff Saunders from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who plays hockey as well and is an incredible athlete. All of these kids seem to be sophomores. However, Buff’s father was almost a great hockey player too, but after Buff’s mother was killed in a car wreck due to Mr. Saunders’ drinking, he began drinking even more to help drown his sorrows, and is now putting so much pressure on Buff to be a star hockey player that the boy himself turns to drinking in order to help him cope with his difficulties. Buff’s friends want to help him. Will he let them? Will his father let them? What can they do about Mr. Saunders? And what will happen to Buff?
Before getting to the main plot issue of drinking, I must point out that the book has a lot of typical public school worldliness with references to making out, dating, kissing, dancing, having hickeys, and swearing. The language includes the “h” and “d” words, both used several times even by the narrator, as well as one appearance of the “s” word and a couple of instances of the term a** for the rear end. Also, a lot of sex talk occurs. Concerning Art and Tina, it is said, “But as far as I can tell, they haven’t gone to bed with each other. Art wants to, but she won’t. She says they’re both too young.” Ugh! for Art, and yeah! for Tina. When Tina plans a party while her parents are away, Art encourages the unnamed narrator to bring a date. “You have a chance to score, dummy. Do you understand what I’m saying? You, a man, can have sex with the woman of your choice this Saturday night.” At least the narrator explains, “I’m no dummy. I know about sexual intercourse. But I’m not going to get worked up about it the way Art does. Life is already complicated enough. Sex would only make it more confusing for me.” Good for him! Yet even he “tried to imagine Buff in bed with Tina.” And it appears that most of the other boys think only of sex. They want to date girls with “knockers,” and tease boys as “fags” and girls as “dikes” for not giving in, although no actual sexual activity is mentioned. Except that in one raunchy locker room conversation, an upper classman, Sweeney who is the first string center, is asked by fellow senior John Murphy, “You get anything last night?” He replied, “I got everything, man.” The narrator says, “I knew what everything meant, but I didn’t understand why it was so funny.” Then he learned whom Sweeney had gone out with, saying, “Even I knew about Carol Langulis. She had had an abortion when she was fourteen.”
I am guessing that we might be nudged to go ahead and accept all this filthy language and lasciviousness because of the supposedly good message of the story about teenage drinking. Yet even here there is a major problem. In this book, everyone drinks. The parents drink. The underage kids drink. Nothing negative is ever said about that. The only issue occurs when someone “drank too much.” We were always told, wisely and rightly so, that one didn’t have to worry about drinking “too much” if he never started drinking in the first place. This is not to say that the novel is all bad. It is well written and will keep the reader interested. The events of Tina’s party, at which Buff and Art get into a fight, Art severs a tendon in his foot by stepping on a broken bottle, and Tina temporarily breaks up with Art, could be used to illustrate the undesirable consequences of drinking in general. The narrator’s elderly neighbor, Ruth Benedict, who has had her own problem with alcoholism in the past, offers some good advice on the dangers of alcohol. And the end does have a positive and hopeful note. The book won the South Carolina Book Award for Young Adult Book in1982 and was made into an ABC Afterschool Special with Scott Baio and Lance Kerwin. However, it is a very earthy story, and, because of the vulgar language and casual sexual references, which were probably included just to titillate and appeal to the baser instincts of hormonally crazed teenage boys, I simply cannot recommend it to people who are Christians or trying to be godly.