Brian McSpadden is always hungry. Does he have a disease? Worms? Does it have something to do with his being adopted? He spends his days at his crazy friend Danny’s house, hoping for snacks, but nothing seems to fill the void.
Then Brian receives a mysterious birthday card that says, Free Pizza. He soon discovers the card has nothing to do with food and everything to do with the big questions in his life: where did I come from, why did my mother give me up and is there anyone out there who will like me the way I am?
Centered on the life of a ten year old, Brian, Free Pizza takes you through the complex and often confusing emotions of growing up with your adoptive parents and step siblings. This was the story of an “atypical” family and with interesting dynamics among the characters. The adoptive parents aren’t “evil” or apathetic. Brian isn’t acting out or rebelling – his step-siblings are as normal towards him as you can expect out of five year old kids.
Yet, there is a sense of discontentment and a feeling of constant unmet expectations from Brian’s side. It is partly owing to the fact that his parents are much older in age. So he craves for a more “youthful” family setup and home life. It also doesn’t help that he knows he was adopted when the parents thought they couldn’t have biological kids.
A phone call one day leads him to slowly trying to connect with the family he never got a chance with. I liked how the book shows it isn’t all smooth sailing – the awkwardness, Brian’s initial disappointments that the moments he had been waiting for didn’t go as expected and his adoptive family’s attempt to adjust with the new circumstances.
Brian’s best friend, his family and their neighbor provide for the lighter moments in the story. Danny’s family life is chaotic, accident-prone, and the bustling household is a contrast to Brian’s staid one. I did enjoy all the subplots but felt it took away the focus from what the book was supposed to be about. I felt some characters, their families and backgrounds were meant for Brian to learn and introspect about how he was placed in his own life, but we never really got to hear anything from him or understand what he took away from those insights. There was one incident towards the end where a character’s actions made an impact on him and I wish we got more moments like that – where we could see the whole point of filling in so much of the book’s space with his friend’s and neighbors’ lives. I wanted to understand more about how Brian felt about his adoptive family – if it was always a sense of detachment or was there a lot more – some fondness, affection?
I thought the book needed more focus on Brian, his family, thoughts and attempts at connecting with his lost-and-found-again family. The ending was abrupt and we are left at a juncture where he is foisted with more people and information on him. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. He was barely able to connect with some recent events and new entrants into his life in the past weeks, so he being joyous and hopeful after being confronted with more of such unfamiliarity didn’t ring true to me.
The book was an easy, fun read though. While my primary issues were about how it didn’t feel very cohesive, the different subplots – in isolation – were quite entertaining. It was also a well-written account of happenings and perspective through the eyes of an eleven-year old protagonist.
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Meet the Author:
G.C. McRae is the bestselling author of two young adult novels, three illustrated children’s books and a collection of original fairy tales. His writing is fall-down funny, even when the theme is darker than a coal-miner’s cough. McRae reads to anybody at any time, in person or online, for free, which probably explains why he meets so many people and sells so many books.
In his latest work, Free Pizza, McRae spins the highly emotional themes from his decidedly unfunny childhood into a brilliantly comic yarn. After being given up for adoption by his teenage mom back when single girls were forced to hide unplanned pregnancies, his adoptive parents didn’t exactly keep him under the stairs but, well, let’s just say, there were spiders.
A lot has changed since then. McRae’s own children have now grown and he runs a small farm with his wife, who is herself an award-winning writer.
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