Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review: Grendel's Guide to Love and War - A.E. Kaplan

Grendel's Guide to Love and War 
A.E. Kaplan
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Retelling
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Reading Challenges: #NGEW2017, #DebutAuthorChallenge

Tom Grendel was one of the few residents in his quiet neighborhood, who was under the age of 60. He led a quiet life providing gardening services to all the fine widows of his community and recording their life stories.  This was the perfect residence for Grendel and his father, an Army veteran, who was suffering from PTSD, UNTIL the Rothgars moved in next door. In an unneighborly fashion, Rex and Wolf threw very loud blow-out parties EVERY night. As he tried to maintain his father's sanity, Tom plotted to thwart their party efforts, and thus, the prank war was born.
My life had exactly three phases: before Mom, after Mom but before Dad/Iraq, and my current post-Dad/Iraq period. Frankly, I hoped this phase would go on for a while. I wasn't really up for many more defining moments. 
First and foremost, this book was so much fun. The characters were witty. The banter was whip-smart, and I laughed heartily and often. But, it wasn't all just fun and games, there was a lot of really deep and heartfelt stuff in there too. The whole premise was quite heartening, that Tom wanted to eradicate the threat to his father and was trying to protect the only parent he had left. I often found a lump in my throat, whenever the subject arose. He felt this immense pressure to be the perfect son, so as to reduce his father's stress. It was a heavy weight for a a 17-year-old, who was dealing with his own issues, to bear.
Here's the thing. You can't pull any more stunts like you pulled today. Do you understand me? In a couple of hours we're going to send him home and you need to be a model kid from here on out. 
The prank war was pretty hilarious. It was rooted in the best intentions, but it escalated to an obscene level quite quickly. At first, it was just Ed and Tom doing battle against the Rothgars, but then Tom's sister, Zipora, joins the ranks and she has a score to settle with Wolf.
"And then," I said, miming an explosion with my hands, "guile."
"Does guile involve jazz hands?"
"Those were not jazz hands. That was an explosion."
not guile


I am all about the characters in a story, and Kaplan provided us with a wonderful group of characters. Tom was an adorable and lovable MC. He was a good neighbor, friend, brother, and son. He was quirky, funny, loyal, honest, and tenderhearted. I just wanted to scoop him up and give him a great big hug.
"The human mind," Zip said seriously, "is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. It's a veritable turducken of unknowability."
Tom's immediate social circle was rather small, but rather awesome. His sister Zipora was this complex, funny, hot-mess. She was grappling with her own issues, but she was learning from her mistakes and taking steps to improve her situation. The other important person is Tom's life was Ed. The bromance between this two was one for the ages. From their "meet cute" to how Ed was just always just a phone call away, this was a friendship which all people should strive for.
They stood with walkers, canes, and orthopedic shoes, and as one, they were pissed.
I. Loved. Tom's. Neighbors. There was just such a genuine bond between him and his ladies. He looked after them, but they also looked after him. It was very sweet the way he would come to their aid and they way they came to his.
"I think you are absolutely dead strange, Tom."
"And I like that you're dead strange."
I laughed. "I am not your manic pixie dream boy, Willow Rothgar. I serve only myself."

There was a little bit of romance going on there between Willow and Tom. He had been pining for her for several years, and she was finally reciprocating. They shared some very special and tender moments, and I thought Kaplan made an interesting statement with where she brought that romance.

Overall: A fun and touching story of a boy's journey as he works through his grief, as he reconnects with his father, and as he tries to preserve his mother's memory, filled with laugh-out-loud pranks, and some amazing friends to help him along the way.

**I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced copy of this book

Have you ever been involved in an epic prank-war?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. This sounds *so good*! I haven't heard of this one before but I love the rpemise. I mean, there's the fun of the prank war but it's based in something so serious. I just put a reserve on this one at my library for when it releases. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention, Sam! :)

    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

    1. I am so happy it piqued your interest. I have never read Beowulf, but I still loved this story, and found the author's afterword quite interesting. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

  2. This does sound fun, and the Grendel/ Rothgar thing made me smile. I also think the relationships sound like a lot of fun in this one. Adding it!

    1. At the end of the book, the other explains the Beowulf tie-ins, which I thought was great. The book really was a lot of fun, but still had depth and a lot of heart.

  3. This is the first that I have heard of this book but I think it would be my kind of read. I love books with great banter and a bit of humor. The characters sound great. I am glad you enjoyed it.

    1. I am doing a big push to read debuts, and I found this one. I have been trying to read more books with male protagonists too, and what a bonus that it was such a fun story.

  4. Whip-smart banter is even more effective when it's combined with heavier issues, since it helps break up the tension a little bit. I really like the sound of both Tom and Zipora, and I'm especially excited about Tom and Ed's friendship. It's been a while since I've read a solid representation of teenage guys just palling around because I've been so focused on strong friendships between ladies!

    1. I feel like I have been seeing some great YA bromances lately, where the boys are very supportive of each other and even talk about their feelings. Maybe it's because I have been trying to read more books with male MCs too.