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Unbelievably Boring Bart
With Duane Swierczynski
Illustrated by Xavier Bonet
Read by Adam McArthur
Formats and Prices
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
- ebook $9.99 $12.99 CAD
- Hardcover $13.99 $18.49 CAD
- Audiobook CD (Unabridged) $18.00 $23.50 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 3, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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My name is Bartholomew Bean, and I wasn’t always the most boring middle schooler in the universe.
In fact, I fit in pretty well back in my hometown of Philadelphia. Sure, you had your usual gang of overachievers and super-jocks, and more than a few knuckleheads and bullies.
But most of us were somewhere in the middle. You know, ordinary kids. It was easy to blend in when a whole bunch of us were trying to do the same thing. In Philly, you never wanted to stand out because that’s pretty much painting a target on your back.
Then a few months ago, my dad got a new job and moved us to a city 2,700 miles away called Rancho Verdugo, California.
The second part of the name comes from the mountain range that’s in our backyard (the Verdugos), and the town’s first name comes from… I honestly don’t know. Because it rhymes with Verdugo? Because everyone here used to be cowboys?
Anyway, Rancho Verdugo is right next door to Los Angeles. You know, LA. The City of Angels. The place that always gets blown up in all those disaster movies.
“You’re going to love it, buddy,” my dad told me. “The weather’s absolutely insane! It’s pretty much sunny outside all the time.”
“I hear the weather’s really nice in Hawaii, too.”
“Oh, please. Rancho Verdugo is so much better than Hawaii. Just wait until you see it.”
“Do people in grass skirts bring you pineapple smoothies in Rancho Verdugo?”
“Bart, you’re going to have to trust me.”
And I did. I trusted Dad right up until that crazy-hot summer day we pulled into town. Soon I realized my dad’s idea of “nice weather” was a blazing death ray beaming down onto the top of your head at all times.
“Seriously, Dad? It’s like a billion degrees here!”
“They say it’s a little warmer here in the summer. But it sure beats Philly, doesn’t it?”
Clearly, my dad loved the sensation of being a bug on the sidewalk while someone held a giant magnifying glass over him. Maybe he relished the sound of his own body sizzling as he slowly turned well done.
But do you want to know the real problem with Rancho Verdugo?
It’s super-close to Hollywood.
I know what you’re thinking:
Hollywood? Man, that sounds so lit!
Yeah, no. It’s pretty darn far from lit.
Because Rancho Verdugo is so close (and by close, I mean right over the hill, the same hill with the big white H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D on it) to the Entertainment Capital of the World, people from all over the country flock here to Make It Big.
Which means the halls of my school are jam-packed with some of the most interesting middle schoolers in the world.
I mean, look at them!
Right up in front are the YouTubers.
You can tell because they’re glued to their phones. All of them have their own shows, watched by people who have their own shows, which in turn are watched by other people who have even more shows. (Who has time to watch all these shows?)
Anyway… see those kids behind them, with the sets of huge headphones strapped to their heads?
Those are the Electronic Musicians. They use their laptops to create “music” that sounds like a smartphone when you put it in the microwave for thirty seconds and then smack it with a hammer.
Farther down the hall you have the Indie Film Actors. They mumble a lot and look at their shoes and pretend they’re on camera at all times. Whatever you do, don’t step into their scene. They’ll yell “CUT!” and have you forcibly ejected.
And waaaaaay back at the end of the hall are the Future Olympians. They run a lot and avoid carbs and sculpt their bodies into machines that are perfect for running a lot and avoiding carbs, I guess.
All of them incredibly cool. All of them hopelessly fascinating.
And then there’s me.
By comparison, I’m a total zero.
Snoozeville. Population: me.
No visible talents.
No clear purpose in life.
No reason to exist, really.
And the problem is… this makes me stick out like a sore thumb in a bucket full of fingers!
Okay, that’s kind of gross. But you know what I mean.
OH, I’M SORRY, I DIDN’T SEE YOU EXISTING THERE
My typical day starts in homeroom with Mr. Lopez checking attendance. I’m always in my seat on time, ready to get this day going.
Not because I’m excited about school. I just want to get it over with as soon as possible.
Now, Mr. Lopez is a pretty chill guy. He never yells, even when other students are acting like rabid squirrels. He’ll just glare at them, and pretty soon they get the idea that they’d better calm down, or else.
But Mr. Lopez is so chill that sometimes—okay, maybe like half the time—he forgets to call out my name.
Even though I have perfect attendance, I’m probably marked absent half the time. Which isn’t going to make my dad very happy.
Alas, there’s no time to stick around to tell Mr. Lopez that I am actually there and not still asleep in my bed or playing an RPG on my laptop or test-piloting experimental aircraft forty thousand miles above the school.
Because when the bell rings, I have approximately 4.3 seconds to transport myself, as well as my school bag (which weighs 847 pounds), to another classroom that is two buildings and three floors away.
My dad always says to give everything my “best try.” And I do. Sometimes I even raise my hand in class. But do teachers see me? Nope.
It’s like I’m one of those optical illusions where you can’t see me unless you stare at me cross-eyed.
Maybe if my teacher stares at me long enough I’ll finally appear, like one of those magic sailboats in those goofy pictures at the mall.
Now if I could stay invisible all the time, it wouldn’t be so bad. Like I said, back in Philly, I blended in with the rest of the ordinary kids. Which kept me safe.
But because I’m not a YouTuber, or an Electronic Musician, or an Indie Film Actor, or a Future Olympian, I tend to stand out to a particular type of student at Rancho Verdugo Middle School.
And that would be… the bullies.
My best guess is that they pick on me because I’m breathing perfectly good oxygen that someone far more interesting could be using.
Or maybe because they’re bored. And when you’re feeling bored, nothing quite satisfies you like pouncing on someone who’s boring, like, all the time.
Then again, maybe they pick on me because they think I’m just shy. And if they push me far enough, I’ll suddenly snap and do something interesting… like bust out some killer kung fu moves!
But I’ve never even tried to chop a head of lettuce, let alone a human being. What am I saying? At Rancho Verdugo Middle School, most kids would consider a head of lettuce far more interesting than me. (Especially if it’s organic, shade-grown, free-trade lettuce.)
Anyway, you’ll meet all these bullies soon enough. They’re kind of hard to miss. And they have a nasty habit of popping up when you least expec—
Um, that would be Giselle, a.k.a. the Golem.
(You know the legend of the Golem, right? Giant statue made of clay, but sprinkle a little magic on it, and the thing comes to life to stomp your enemies into itty-bitty pieces?)
Anyway, Giselle the Golem’s got five inches on me, along with about eighty thousand pounds of pure muscle. The Golem’s favorite thing in the world is pretending I don’t exist.
I’m serious. She plows right into me like the Titanic hitting an iceberg—only I’m the one that snaps in half and sinks down to the floor. Glug.
The Golem never says “Oops, sorry.”
She never even slows down.
What’s really weird is that even if the Golem is standing across a crowded hallway, she’ll target me like a heat-seeking missile. Apparently, she’s got some kind of bat-style radar that pings whenever I’m within range.
The next thing I know, I’m kissing linoleum.
But there’s something even worse than playing Tokyo to Giselle’s Godzilla.
There is one kid who pays close attention to me. He’s pretty much in all of my classes, and somehow he always manages to be sitting right behind me. Even when the teacher decides to change things up by moving our seat assignments around, he’s there. It’s as if he can defy the laws of time and space!
I do my best to ignore him, but this only deepens his resolve to make me turn around. He’ll start flicking the back of my T-shirt. Not hard enough to sting or anything. But constant enough to drive me out of my mind, like a steady drip from a leaky faucet.
And then, involuntarily, as if some force has seized control of my brain and nervous system… I turn around to face…
Nick, a.k.a. the Mimic.
Nick the Mimic looks at me like he’s a puppy dog and my face is a giant treat.
“What?” I whisper in the quietest, loudest voice I can manage. Naturally, this happens at just the moment Miss Howard at the front of the classroom stops speaking. And my “WHAT?” sounds as subtle as a drum set shoved down a fire escape.
Miss Howard turns. Gives me a frown. Then goes back to talking about the American Revolution.
“Bart! Guess what?”
Oh, boy. I have no choice but to whisper back: “What?”
“The British are coming! The British are coming.…”
And then he shoves two fingers into my back as he finishes his thought.
You see, Nick the Mimic has been gifted with the amazing ability to take any class topic… I’m talking about any class topic since schools were first created in ancient Greek times or whatever… and somehow threaten me with it.
“Bart, bro. Guess what? We all got together and decided to subtract you from the school population.”
“Hey, Bart! Guess what? You’re about to go extinct, along with the rest of the world’s boring people!”
And then he’ll twist his neck, pop out his tongue, and somehow make this incredibly realistic (and sickening) bone-snapping sound.
Nick will just stare at me, mouth a silent boom, and create a little mushroom cloud with his hands. “That’s you, dude. Totally nuked.”
Charming guy, my pal Nick. I like to think I’m helping his academic career. If Nick didn’t devote his life to making fun of me, I doubt he’d ever pay attention in class.
And then there’s gym period.
Gym is pretty much the only class where the teacher pays close attention to me. In fact, sometimes it feels like I’m the only kid standing there in the bright, hot sun, waiting to suffer.
This is because my dad is a gym teacher, too. Down the hill at Rancho Verdugo High School he’s known as Coach Bill Bean. That’s what brought us to this sunbaked wasteland of interesting people in the first place.
Dad is also a serious football junkie. No, seriously—you don’t understand. Do you know how most doctors pinch newborn babies to test their reflexes? I’m pretty sure the doc who delivered my dad tossed him a football.
And my dad probably caught it.
Bill Bean is such a football nut that he named his only child (moi) after his favorite athlete: Bartholomew “Krusher” Kersh, a quarterback with the St. Louis Whatevers.
I grew up with a framed poster of “Krusher” on my wall. I’ll be honest: it scared me when I was a little kid. I wondered if my dad put it up to frighten me into doing my homework.
Now, Dad knows I’m not into sports. And to his credit, he doesn’t push it. But he also thinks I play video games way too much. Back in Philly I’d be sitting there, wrapped up in a killer RPG campaign, and Dad would appear out of nowhere.
“Hey, buddy! How about you close that laptop and head outside with me to throw the old ball around?”
(Never mind that there is no “old ball.” As a coach, my dad has access to every kind of football, basketball, tennis ball, baseball, soccer ball, bocce ball, pimple ball, and badminton birdie ever created. So I never know what he has in mind.)
- Praise for Unbelievably Boring Bart:
- "Though Bart claims to be boring, frequent illustrations of the inventive ways Bart sees the world mark him as entertaining from the start... The bullying storylines play out with nuance... Wish fulfillment with surprising meat."—Kirkus
- On Sale
- Sep 3, 2018
- Hachette Audio