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Playing it Cool

Joaquin Dorfman

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Random House Books for Young Readers

Published : 2006

Copyright : Joaquin Dorfman 2006

ISBN-10 : HB 0-375-83641-1
ISBN-13 : HB 978-0-375-83641-1

Publisher's Write-Up

“I always know what I’m doing.”

So says 18-year-old Sebastian Montero, who is famous around town as a problem solver of the subtlest kind. Want a date with the girl of your dreams? Bastian can make it happen. Have a friend threatening suicide? Baz can talk him off the ledge. But as popular as Sebastian is, no one really knows him. Thanks to his intricate network of favours and debts Sebastian controls the world, manipulates it - and hides from it. It isn’t until his best friend asks him to track down his long-missing father that Sebastian is forced to face the most challenging problem of all, the solution to which will change his life forever.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Molly Martin (301106) Rating (8/10)

Review by Molly Martin
Rating 8/10
The narrative begins with the prologue where we find Sebastian ruminating about when it all began. Sebastian, Baz to some, Bastian to others and Seba to still others is eighteen years old and is the person so many turn to when they have a problem. It was Thursday when a grateful Caesar dropped Sebastian off at his house. Because of Sebastian Caesar has a date with Nicole. Sebastian gets things done. In two days Sebastian and his friend Jeremy will set off on an adventure to meet Jeremy’s biological father. Learning that he has a biological father, who is not the man married to his mother and is not the man Jeremy has always believed to be his ‘real’ father, has come as a bit of a surprise. The pair will be travelling to Wilmington, North Carolina where Bastian will pretend to be Jeremy. Jeremy needs a little time to get used to his newly discovered parent.

Sara Shaw who is visiting the abortion clinic where her mother is protesting abortion, Jenny who calls to state that Paul is planning to kill himself, pizza chain owner Big Niko and his penchant for making time with women who are not his wife are all part of the tale. Coming to grips with his own birth circumstance, meeting Dromio Johansson, his wife, daughter and her friend, confronting a fellow who carries Rohypnol in his pocket, a girl named Christina, and making an assumption, Sara disappears and graduation day all move the story to the conclusion.

Playing it Cool is a well written, touching tale filled with pathos, adult language and conduct. Sebastian is ‘cool’, he smokes, drinks liquor and fixes things for everyone. He is the one everyone turns to when they have a problem. He can set up dates, arrange transportation and talk a friend down from a ledge. Blackmail and hostility, a need to fix things for everyone and misunderstanding are all part of the tale. A boy trying to appear as a man; Sebastian remains a disadvantaged boy who has little confidence with girls, and has a despairing need for a father of his own.

Characters are not always likeable, they are plausible, complicated and captivating. Written with empathy and an energy that will drive readers forward Playing it Cool is a compelling read for upper grades and high school readers who enjoy reading a tale that is at times filled with distressing cerebral calamity.

Writer Dorfman possesses an understanding for dialogue and the human psyche, as the characters presented put themselves in disturbing peril in their desire to help others out of danger physical or emotive the reader is carried along on an emotional roller coaster. Tackling the harsh realism of life is not always easy or satisfying for adults or teens, Dorfman’s keen command of words is evident. Sebastian is a youngster who finds his life spinning out of control and the reader spins along with him. Dorfman's writing is efficient, tense, and not for the immature young reader.

Writer Dorfman presents a compelling read in his young adult offering. Characters who are suffering from many of the same feelings of inadequacy and attempts to cover up by a façade of ‘cool’ or pretence as are faced by teens everywhere hold reader interest from opening lines to the last paragraph.

Graphic language and situations make the work not for everyone. Playing it Cool is a book many teens will find compelling with its tale of a young man who is in search of himself. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.
Molly Martin (30th November 2006)

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