Redmond has no idea why he stole the Whomper. He guesses his extreme dislike (okay, hate… so much hate) of the school’s most popular teacher probably has something to do with it. To his surprise and delight, the hottest girl in school, Elodia Cruz, hates him too.
Soon, Redmond’s small band of misfit friends joins up with Elodia and the most popular kids on campus to hold the Whomper for ransom, pull off an elaborate, broad daylight heist to steal something even bigger from Mr. Street, and expose their teacher for the scumbag he really is.
There’s so many things that go into a book to make it special. The characters. The plotline. The meaning. As a reader, I always want to somehow predict the outcome. It can be frustrating, especially if I’m right. I wasn’t in this case which just made the experience better. Paper Bag Mask has this sense of ‘chaotic good’ energy that can make a reader, such as myself, stay up to early hours of the morning reading because it honestly can’t be put down.
There’s just so much to say about this book. I’ll try to not create a jumbled mess of a review for you readers. First and foremost, I wanted to somehow reach into the virtual pages of this book and smack Redmond over the head. Not in a vicious way. It’s much like watching a puppy destroy your prized sneakers. It’s cute? But also, whyyyyyyy puppy?! Redmond is the puppy if that wasn’t super clear.
The adults in this book had me so frustrated and confused. Mainly by their odd and somewhat illegal behavior (for future readers, it’ll be what happens to Deep). However this book is so clever in it’s writing. While I won’t claim to be the expert, it has a series of internal and external voices that emerge throughout the plot. Redmond is our main character, driven by motivations that he doesn’t quite realize or won’t admit. However, throughout the book, other voices emerge such as the popular Elodia, Alice, and Mr. Street. Then you have your narrator, which can sound eerily similar to Redmond, perhaps an older version that is telling us the story. Or perhaps an altered version of the Author. Either way, the narrator can be unreliable at times and will purposely mislead you. Or maybe it was just me. The point being is you’ll be able to read the lines between the lines and discover subtle stories that the reader can and will discover. (The sentence makes more sense in my head.) Even the often hilarious asterisks placed throughout the story add an extra mixture to this memorable book. Not to mention the great art! I can easily see why this book has become so popular. Brock Heasley has a great sense of humor that can be lighthearted and dark without bringing the pacing down. It reminded me a bit of Rick Riordan’s talent of writing humor into intense scenes.
So I’ve mentioned the clever writing. Let’s talk about the characters. Each of them are interesting, are flawed, and unbearably realistic teenagers. I wasn’t too keen on teenagers even when I was one. Mainly because they can be mean, erratic, and easily say harsh things without the repercussions. Actually, that’s a complete lie and generalization that doesn’t pertain to an age group. Instead, we have Elodia, who is a popular girl and completely aware of her status and how it affects others. We also have ‘actual’ Elodia, who despite being popular, considers herself to only have one friend. She’s smart and stands up for people. She sees Red’s potential for more and is forgiving despite many things going wrong.
Alice, a girl that immediately recognized the kindness in Redmond but also the flaws. She’s creative and confident in who she is. Except when she isn’t. She’s loyal, even if that means not always standing by her friends. In short, Heasley does a great job writing characters. I was never waiting to get through a scene or to the next chapter. It was great just reading in the moment and having a laugh.
I tend to perceive an overall meaning in a book. It helps tie up my thoughts about it and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. What I took from Paper Bag Mask was forgiveness. Not just forgiveness from people that apologize but the ones that don’t. The people or events that just happen and there’s really no way to make it the way it was. Everything and everyone changes and we can get lost in the shuffle. We can feel we’re alone or invisible. Redmond calls himself invisible in the very beginning and I easily have felt that way as well. It’s forgiving the little things that get to us and can build up over time. Mistakes that we make and are made against us. Maybe not everything has to have a meaning. Not every book. But I enjoyed what Paper Bag Mask offered and I know many other readers will too.
Brock lives with his wife and three daughters in California where they enjoy Pixar movies, dancing in the living room, and eating breakfast for dinner.