The Kidney Hypothetical: or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days

272p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545230940; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545633994.
Gr 7 Up—It all began when Higgs Boson Bing's girlfriend asked if he would hypothetically give her a kidney. Until then, Higgs (named after the infamous God particle) had everything: great grades, a popular girlfriend, and an acceptance letter to Harvard. Now with only seven days until graduation, everything is falling apart. He immediately loses his girlfriend and his best friend; he learns that his teachers and classmates never really liked him; and even his acceptance to Harvard is called into question. Yee starts strong with Higgs's situation immediately spiraling out of control. The underlying issue of Higgs dealing with his older brother Jeffrey's death, and subsequently trying to live up to Jeffrey's achievements, adds substance. The story begins to suffer when Monarch, a manic pixie goth girl, shows up. She merely serves as a device to help Higgs see the error of his ways and loosen up a bit. After her arrival, the story becomes a bit unfocused. The hijinks that ensue with Higgs and Monarch creates a laundry list of plot elements that tend to detract rather than add. Fortunately, the author redeems herself with a hopeful, yet not happily-ever-after ending that, while expected, is still satisfying. This is a story that has a few missteps, but still gets a lot right.—Kimberly Castle-Alberts, Hudson Library & Historical Society, OH
High-school senior Higgs Boson Bing loses his girlfriend, his best friend, his popularity, and his future at Harvard all in one week. Higgs wins readers over with his genuine surprise at discovering he's a self-centered jerk; flashbacks hint that deep down he's a decent guy. The satisfying ending, in which Higgs quickly makes amends, is a fitting whirlwind of a conclusion.
High school senior Higgs Boson Bing manages to ruin his life, losing his prom-queen girlfriend, his best friend, his popularity, and his future at Harvard all in one week. In her second YA novel, Yee (Absolutely Maybe, rev. 3/09), in an unusual move, presents an unlikable protagonist who discovers that he’s only popular because everyone’s afraid to cross him: he’s actually a self-centered jerk who’s made a lot of enemies clawing his way to the top. Narrator Higgs somehow wins readers over with his genuine surprise at this discovery and with hints (through flashbacks) that deep down he’s a decent guy -- whose personality has been completely warped by his attempt to be as perfect as everyone thinks his deceased older brother was. Higgs meets a free spirit (“You can call me Monarch”) whose apparent independence helps persuade him to live his own life and not his brother’s (who, he learns, was unhappily following their Harvard-educated dentist-father’s expectations of him); the fact that Monarch (in actuality a conventional girl named Mindy, headed to Yale) was only taking a temporary stand against her own parents’ expectations is a nice bit of irony. The satisfying, expeditious ending, in which Higgs quickly makes amends to all he’s offended or ignored (including the school janitor, his ex, his sister, and his best friend) is a fitting whirlwind of a conclusion for someone who managed to “ruin” his life in a matter of days. jennifer m. brabander

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