Summary and book reviews of Grendel's Guide to Love and War by A. E. Kaplan

Grendel's Guide to Love and War

by A. E. Kaplan

Grendel's Guide to Love and War by A. E. Kaplan
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  • Published:
    Apr 2017, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Matt Grant

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About this Book

Book Summary

The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Revenge of the Nerds in this tale of a teen misfit who seeks to take down the bro next door, but ends up falling for his enemy's sister and uncovering difficult truths about his family in the process.

Tom Grendel lives a quiet life - writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the "manic-pixie-dream" label. But when Willow's brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens' community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is rightfully pissed - his dad is an Iraq vet, and the noise from the parties triggers his PTSD - so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. But of course, it's not that simple.

One retaliation leads to another, and things quickly escalate out of control, driving Tom and Willow apart, even as the parties continue unabated. Add to that an angsty existential crisis born of selectively reading his sister's Philosophy 101 coursework, a botched break-in at an artisanal pig farm, and ten years of unresolved baggage stemming from his mother's death ... and the question isn't so much whether Tom Grendel will win the day and get the girl, but whether he'll survive intact.

Chapter One

When I was nine years old, on the nineteen-­day anniversary of my mother's sudden and unexpected death, I had the unfortunate experience of visiting the world's worst family counselor.

It was still not entirely real yet, my mother's death, and I vacillated between crying and waiting for her to come home and tell me that everyone had made a huge mistake, that it hadn't been her who had a stroke at the kitchen table, but the neighbor, or some random woman off the street who had wandered into our house and died in my mother's chair while we were at school.

Anyway, there we were, listening to the counselor give her phony condolences, and then she went on to explain that my mother's life was a sentence and her death was a punctuation mark. It was up to us, she said, to decide whether to view Mom's death as a period (boo) or an exclamation point (yay!). I sat there numbly and watched the clock, grateful that the hour-­long session would ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The fact that this all takes place in a few short weeks in July makes Grendel's Guide to Love and War the perfect summer novel. It is fun and funny, lighthearted, but not without gravitas. And at its heart, it's still the familiar old story of a hero battling evil. It's been good enough for more than 1,000 years; there's no reason it can't keep working now.   (Reviewed by Matt Grant).

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Media Reviews

School Library Journal

Starred Review. An outstanding YA novel balancing comedy with substantial themes of love, death, and healing.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Deep and uproarious all at once, this doesn't require familiarity with the source material for readers to have a fine time with it. A clever spin on a weighty classic.

Author Blurb Lance Rubin, author of Denton Little's Death Date
Grendel's Guide to Love and War is both laugh-out-loud funny and cry-softly-to-yourself heartbreaking. A surprisingly affecting comedic gem about what it means to truly know another human being.

Author Blurb Kate Hattemer, author of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy
A smart, snappy novel that weaves allusions to Beowulf into a plot full of pranks, home-brewing, lawn-mowing, and a fearsome geriatric army. Deftly satirical and unexpectedly moving, this book is a can't-miss.

Author Blurb Leila Sales, author of This Song Will Save Your Life
Get ready to fall in love with Tom Grendel! He cracked me up, he made me cringe, and he surprised me, but through it all, I was always rooting for him - and you will, too.

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Beyond the Book

Beowulf

Grendel's Guide to Love and War is a contemporary retelling of the epic poem Beowulf. In the author's note at the end of the novel, A.E. Kaplan says that when she first read Beowulf, she remembers feeling sorry for Grendel. "The poor fellow is minding his own business, living in his lake with his mother, when Hrothgar and company show up and ruin the neighborhood. He's stuck with these inconsiderate bastards who keep him up all night with their drunken carousing until one evening, thoroughly fed up, he arrives at one of their parties slavering with rage and eats everyone." In Grendel's Guide to Love and War, Tom Grendel is a 17-year-old who mows neighborhood lawns, and who must defend his quiet neighborhood from a group of hard-partying ...

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