Title: Anything You Want
Author: Geoff Herbach
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2016
GoodReads Summary: Expect a bundle of joy—er, trouble—in this hilarious, heartwarming story from the award-winning author of Stupid Fast Geoff Herbach.
Taco's mom always said, "Today is the best day of your life, and tomorrow will be even better." That was hard to believe the day she died of cancer and when Taco's dad had to move up north for work, but he sure did believe it when Maggie Corrigan agreed to go with him to junior prom. Taco loves Maggie- even more than the tacos that earned him his nickname. And she loves him right back. Except all that love? It gets Maggie pregnant. Everyone else may be freaking out, but Taco can't wait to have a real family again. He just has to figure out what it means to be a dad and how to pass calculus. And then there's getting Maggie's parents to like him. Because it would be so much easier for them to be together if he didn't have to climb the side of the Corrigans' house to see her...
What I Think: Somehow Geoff Herbach takes a wild, carefree, over-the-top character like Taco and brings him to life with all his high-school-boy antics but still makes him like-able. I really liked Taco but it definitely took me a while to want to root for him. He's just larger than life and at first reading his story was like trying to look into the sun - I was doing it but he was just so full of boy. (Which makes me think boy readers would probably love this book right off the bat!) But as I look closely at what Geoff did here with Taco, there are a few techniques he enlisted to helped to make him endearing to readers.
First of all, he breaks the fourth wall. The fourth wall is the divider between the reader and the story. Sometimes, a character talks directly to the reader and that's what is means to break the fourth wall. As you can see in the first snatch of text, Geoff does this right away - his very first line breaks the fourth wall. It cracks me up because Taco is being himself as usual but because he's talking to us, I felt connected to him.
Another way Geoff connects us to taco is how overall exuberance for life. The kid is excited about a continental breakfast - but Geoff shows us that Taco is excited and again he breaks the fourth wall. It's hard to not be excited for someone who is so silly excited and asking you to be happy with him.
The last snatch of text I pulled really lets us into Taco's head and helps us see that his whole world isn't all rainbows and Froot Loops, we get to see him talking to his mother before she died and we see a hint of his vulnerability. This is just another way we connect to him - at least we can see he has a chink in his armor. Even if it seems small now, we get to see how this grows over time and as we get to know Taco more.
One of the biggest challenges as a writer is to develop a character who has flaws but readers can still relate to. Readers have to see their strengths and their weaknesses and want to root for them throughout the book. Anything You Want is a great mentor text for looking at character development and how to invite readers to connect with the main character.
Snatch of Text:
"When did this start? Duh, dingus. Last spring." (p. 1)
"Have you ever had a continental breakfast? They had one at the hotel. I ate six little boxes of Froot Loops, fourteen pieces of bacon, three cinnamon buns, and eight cups of coffee with these little blue vanilla creamers that tasted like milk mixed with frosting. What a cornucopia!" (p. 5)
"She said, 'You were born special. You were born to do this family proud. You make me proud, Taco.'
She said, 'Today is the best day of your life. So is tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next. No matter what happens, everyday you have is the best day of your life.'
'Today is the best day of my life,' I said, though it didn't feel that way." (p. 21)
Writing Prompt: Write a scene when your main character breaks the fourth wall. What would your character tell you about his story? What do you learn from your character when he or she talks directly to you?