HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Spurt: A Balls and All Story
Author: Chris Miles
Jacket Illustrator: Lucy Ruth Cummins
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, reprinted 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1481479721 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 1481479725 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1481479738 Paperback
ISBN-10: 1481479733 Paperback
Related website(s): http://www.simonandschuster.com/kids (publisher)
Language level: 5
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: supposedly for ages 12 and up
Rating: 0 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Miles, Chris. Spurt: A Balls and All Story (originally published in 2014 by Hardie Grant Egmont, Australia; republished in 2017 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a trademark of Simon and Schuster Inc., 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10020). Fourteen year old Jack Sprigley lives with his mom Adele, older sister Hallie, and grandma Marlene; his dad Peter, a television weather forecaster, had died when Jack was nine. Jack, who a couple of years before appeared as a contestant on a kid’s television show called Bigwigs, is now an eighth grader at Upland Junior-Senior High. He comes back to the second semester of school without having had any contact with his friends during the break and is convinced that they ditched him because he has not reached puberty yet. Darylyn Deramo has developed pimples. Reese Rasmus is starting to grow hair above his lip and under his arms. And Vivi Dink-Dawson has a more womanly figure. However, puberty is still a total no-show for Jack. He isn’t just a late-bloomer. He’s a no-bloomer. So, he comes up with a perfect plan to catch up and win his friends back. He just has to fake puberty. How will he accomplish that? What trouble might he get into trying to do it? And how will his friends react, especially if they find out the truth?
I don’t recall who suggested this book. It wasn’t a recommendation but a question about whether it would be a good story for a pre-teen boy to open a dialogue on puberty. In fact, it is billed as “A hilarious coming of age story for teenage boys about faking it until you make it—and what it means to be a man.” My response is no, at least for those who want to maintain purity of heart. First of all, the language is pretty bad. These early teenagers throw around the “d” and “h” words like they were “the” or “and,” the name of God is frequently used in vain as an interjection, and Jack often says “goddamn” even to his own mother. And on one occasion his mother says, “How do I feel? It’s as weird as fu—“ and holds the “f” for a full five seconds before concluding with a timid “—udge.” Also there is a great deal of emphasis on developing sexuality. The theme might be expressed by the statement that Jack wants to be “a fully paid-up member of the reproductive organs brigade” (p. 48). The dialogue has a lot of near-vulgar sexual terms, both slang and otherwise, for various male and female body parts. One boy in Jack’s P.E. class is described as “being rigged like a horse between [the] legs” (p. 28). There are also references to “flipping the bird” and a subplot that involves “sexting” between Grandma Marlene and Mayor Perry-Moore. School Library Journal said, “Readers ready to handle the many references to pubes and masturbation will find a warm coming-of-age story about a boy who learns that the best way to make and keep friends is to be true to himself.” Are children who are being brought up in the nurture and training of the Lord ever really ready for this kind of ungodliness? One reviewer said that it’s “Judy Blume for boys,” which is NOT a good recommendation in my view.
Are there any positives? I will admit that the book does contain humor. Unfortunately, much of it falls into the category of “coarse jesting” condemned in Ephesians 5:4. Also, I will say that Australian author Chris Miles is a good story teller. However, I am reminded of Cecil B. DeMilles’s observation, which applies to books as well as movies, that if something isn’t worth doing to begin with, it isn’t worth doing well. And, interestingly enough, there is a good underlying message about being yourself, being honest with others, and being loyal to your friends. But, oh, the pure garbage one has to wade through to get there. One reviewer wrote, “I love this for a lot of reasons. It helped open some conversation with my 5th grader… we laughed and chatted about the…insecurities bound to come down the road.” One thing which worries me about the present generation of kids is that too many of them have parents that encourage and even promote this kind of trash. I agree with the reviewer who said, “It was just. So. Cringe-worthy….It was told very much like middle grade, but it had more ‘mature’ (or should I say immature) jokes. It was so uncomfortable and cringe-y and annoying.” I debated whether to give Spurt one or no stars. I finally decided that it was a totally worldly book with no spiritually redeeming value for Christians, so I rated it NOT RECOMMENDED.