Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review: The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
Release Date: February 8, 2011
Publisher: Walden Pond Press 

Pages: 314
Received: Review copy from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads: 

Do you need something? Mac can get it for you. It's what he does—he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Their methods might sometimes run afoul of the law, or at least the school code of conduct, but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can pay him, Mac is on your side. His office is located in the East Wing boys' bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming.

Or at least it was, until one particular Monday. It starts with a third grader in need of protection. And before this ordeal is over, it's going to involve a legendary high school crime boss named Staples, an intramural gambling ring, a graffiti ninja, the nine most dangerous bullies in school, and the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in almost seventy years. And that's just the beginning. Mac and Vince soon realize that the trouble with solving everyone else's problems is that there's no one left to solve yours.


I picked up this book at the worst possible time. I was coming down from the triple high of Supernaturally, Clarity, and Queen of the Dead, so I honestly was expecting to be disappointed by The Fourth Stall in the face of all that awesome. But I had a deadline, so I picked up TFS and hoped for the best. After about thirty pages the world had disappeared around me and I was totally sucked into the story. This is a keeper for sure.

I was first captured by the voice of the narrator, Mac. His tone is reminiscent of gangster movies like The Godfather or Scarface mixed with a heavy dose of film noir. He’s a likable guy that sounds like a believable kid while never feeling “too young” for adult readers to enjoy. Occasionally he would veer off into digressions that would frustrate me at first because I was so into current events, but after a few lines I was completely absorbed in this new tract. Mac’s narration is just that good.

The tone of the book was a perfect blend of campy humor and serious issues real kids face. Though I doubt middle schoolers are dealing with the exact circumstances here (some are tongue in cheek far-fetched), the underlying issues of bullying, trust, social class, and friendship will be easy for kids to relate with. There’s a lot of substance, but the story never once feels like a boring “teaching issue.”

Girls will certainly enjoy The Fourth Stall, but this is most definitely a book for the boys. The violence is treated in a very guy-like manner, if you know what I mean. If you’re looking for a book with a moral message about finding non-violent solutions to problems, then The Fourth Stall is not the book for you. There’s much more of a “boys will be boys” attitude here and, personally, I liked it. I think kids will also like it.

Mac’s voice is what first caught my attention and had me chuckling throughout, but it was the tension and mystery that kept me rapidly turning the pages. One part was obvious to me from the beginning (probably wouldn’t be obvious to kids), but the meat of the dilemma and a slew of red herrings kept me guessing to the satisfying conclusion.

I wasn’t expecting to love The Fourth Stall this much, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This book is going straight into my library system so I can start pushing it on my library kids ASAP. YAs may like it (I’m an adult and I loved it!) but I think this book will truly hit its mark with MG kids. I hope Chris Rylander has plans for more books!

 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

This book satisfies the following challenges: 


  1. When I first saw the cover of this book I thought...genius! Glad it's good. It sounds like it would be super funny and I love the gangster references. I saw this one at my library. I'm definitely checking it out.

  2. OMG I want this book! Why do you keep posting such great reviews on great books and making my wishlist grow so uncontrollably? LOL

  3. I've never heard of this one but I love the cover. It sounds perfect for both me and my brother. Adding it to my terribly long wishlist now :)

  4. Nothing like that book that suprises you! Thanks for a great review.

  5. Great review. Another find for my middle grade readers. I like books that surprise you when you're a little hesitant in the beginning.

  6. Oh, Small, I've been so waiting for you to post a review on this one. I'm happy you enjoyed it. I think this is one I can get from the digital library. What a great idea to read it for the All Male Review Challenge.

  7. Maybe I should get this book for my sister Boo. She's not a big reader - though she made me buy her the Lauren Conrad books because she practically worships the woman,but I'm not sure she has read them - but, anyway, she LOVES the Godfather (she named our dog Rocco Lampone) and that kind of narrative and humor.


    Thanks for the awesome review. *grins*

  8. So great that it captured you. It's always hard to read a book after finishing one that you totally love. Nothing can quite measure up. It's nice that this did.

  9. This one sounds like a really fun read, and I like that the underlying tones of more serious matters are there too. It sounds like the narration is great, and that's always something that I love. Thanks for the review!

  10. Ooooh! I wanted to read this one after we had a chat about it at internship! :)

  11. Small-

    I'll have to give this one to my youngest 11 to read. My 14 yr old would probably like it too. I had no idea it was MG. I am always looking for MG books, especially for boys. I so rarely get asked to review them. I loved your review. I thought you were going to hate it the way you led in, but I'm glad you didn't. I'll definitely read this one. Boys and their bathrooms. They never grow out of it!


  12. Isn't it awesome when a book you weren't expecting to like ends up blowing you away.

    The cover and title of this one hints at great humor. I think I'd like to give it a go, especially if it let's boys be boys.

  13. Julie, The cover is so perfect. I haven’t seen many gangster movies so I didn’t catch all the references but there are a bunch that I did see so I’m sure you’d catch more. I hope you like it!

    The Slowest Bookworm, Haha, because I’m a shameless book pusher! I hope you like it!

    A Canadian Girl, I hope both you and your brother like it!

    Karen, Yes, isn’t it a great feeling when you get surprised by a book like that? I love it.

    Lena, Thanks! I like books like that too. It’s such a wonderful feeling to realize you’re enjoying a book so much more than you expected.

    Gina, I’m sorry it took a while! I have such a big stack of books to read and my reviews scheduled out about a month or so in advance, so sometimes it does take a while between mailboxes and reviews.

    Alex, LOL your sister sounds funny. I think she might like this book then! It was also a pretty easy read that flowed well.

    Alison, I know. I try to read books I don’t have high expectations for when I’m coming off an awesome book high. At least that way I won’t be too disappointed and maybe even sometimes surprised, like this time!

    T.B., Thanks! The narration really made it. There was also very good balance between the serious issues and the fun tone of the book.

    Cialina, Ooh, really? I haven’t heard many people talk about it.

    Heather, Books for boys are so rare. I think this would be good for both your boys (age-wise). This bathroom is awesome!

    Missie, Yup, I love it when that happens! Totally lets boys be boys. There’s a bunch of fight scenes. :P

  14. I like a lot of MG reads and am an adult too. I mean, hello, Harry Potter! This is one I didn't hear about when it came out but now that II is out, I hear more about it and I really want to read them both!
    - Jessica @ Book Sake

    1. Exactly! Harry Potter is a great example. There are a lot of fantastic MG series out there, even for adults.


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