Saturday, June 15, 2013

Highlight: Fun and Games by David Michael Slater


The 1980’s: it’s the time of Dungeons & Dragons, banana clips, and Atari. Jonathan Schwartz is growing up in a family like no other. His sisters, Nadia, the dark genius, and Olivia, the gorgeous tease and temptress, manipulate Jon and his friends for their own entertainment.And his Holocaust survivor grandparents? Their coping techniques are beyond embarrassing. A disastrous visit to Jon’s class by his grandmother unhinges his famous father, setting off a chain of events that threatens to send the dysfunctional Schwartz clan up in flames once and for all. Fun & Games is a heartbreaking and hilarious story of faith, family secrets, betrayal, and loss—but it’s also a tale of friendship, love, and side-splitting shenanigans.

David Michael SlaterDavid Michael Slater is an acclaimed and award-winning author of books for children, teens, and adults. His books include Cheese Louise!Flour Girl, Ned Loses His Head, and the controversial teen series, Sacred Books, which is being developed for film. David teaches in Reno, Nevada, where he lives with his wife and son. You can learn more about David and his work at

My friends and I were in ninth grade. They were fourteen—I was a birthday behind, having skipped kindergarten. It was Jake Baker, Cory Minor, Milo Atkins, and me.
The main purpose of the evening was to continue a long-running game of Dungeons and Dragons. These were always fairly chaotic affairs involving the rolling of many oddly shaped dice, the consulting of cryptic manuals, and a great deal of furious debate. But two other highly complex tasks were also on tap that night. The first was an evaluation of the better-looking girls in our grade. This required the passing back and forth of a chart circulated from Health class with columns in which to mark a score for the following categories: Face, Chest, Butt, Eyes, Mouth, Hair, Clothes, Overall Body, and lastly, for tie-breaking purposes, Personality. On the back was an appendix created by Dougie Marlin to settle disputes that arose from the dissemination of earlier versions of the chart. I remember under ‘Chest’ it said that voting was for size and shape alone—and that points couldn’t be added because a girl frequently didn’t wear a bra, purposely kept extra buttons open on her tops, intentionally brushed past boys in the hall with her boobs, or pressed them into you when you hugged her.
The other activity was called “The Purity Test,” which was a list of 100 questions that determined what was called one’s “Purity Rating.” A score of zero indicated absolute purity, while a score of one hundred signified ultimate depravity, neither of which was in the realm of possibility for any real human being, at least any we knew. The hope was for a respectably high score, which meant one checked the yes box for a fair number of questions. Anything in the low fifties was passable for a ninth-grader, though in no way impressive. Dom Lambert supposedly got an 81, which no one really believed, but no one really doubted, either. Rumor had it he fooled around with his cousins. The point of a decent score was to signal an adventurous nature, not to be disgusting.
There were many questions that were givens, things like, “Have you ever lied to your parents?” and “Have you ever seen a naked picture of a member of the opposite sex?” Of course, “Have you ever masturbated?” could be taken for granted as well, but people (other than Milo) tended to count that one and keep go- ing without comment. And then there was always, “Would you perform oral sex on yourself if you could?” This is why the test was typically taken in at least semi-private—but only semi because some questions we aspired to answer yes to publicly. These included the likes of, “Have you ever seen a porno?”, “Have you ever gotten drunk enough to puke?”, and all of the sex questions: “Have you ever had sex in a car? On an airplane? Outside? In your parents’ bed?”

The seemingly innocent question, “Have you ever kissed two different girls within twenty-four hours?” was currently causing controversy because kids looking for loopholes wanted to count mother- and sister-kisses. It was later revised to “French kissed,” by Dougie Marlin, who was also the facilitator for the Purity Test. I happened to be present when he was drafting a new version with this change. He looked at me after altering the term and said, “I kid you not, bro: if Olivia were my sister, I’d totally put the moves on her. I swear to God, I’d have a check in the incest box so freakin’ fast.” 

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