Bookworm: ‘End of the World’ – Solve a catastrophe wearing only swim trunks

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit”

  • By Justin A. Reynolds
  • c. 2022, Scholastic
  • $17.99, 304 pages

When you run out of t-shirts, you know it’s time. Time to do the wash, that is. Toss those dirty clothes in the machine, a lid full of detergent, spin the dial, push a button, slam the lid, wait. Wash, rinse, repeat once a week or so, whether you do it or mom does. The reward is nice, clean clothes – or, as in the new book, “It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit” by Justin A. Reynolds, there’ll be punishment.

“It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit” by Justin A. Reynolds.

When 12-year-old Eddie Gordon Holloway made a deal with his mom, he had a plan that would be “THEE” most epic one ever devised.

She said that if he’d agree to take care of himself all summer long, she’d leave him alone. It would be “complete and utter freedom,” even from laundry, his most-hated chore. See, what he’d do is wear all the clothes he owned – even his ugly Christmas sweaters and the things that were the wrong size – which would leave him with nothing but his swim trunks at the halfway mark for the summer, which happened to be Beach Bash, the most important day of the year in his Cleveland, Ohio, neighborhood. Brilliant, huh?

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Ehhhh, not so much.

Eddie’s mom found his stinky clothes stuffed in his smelly closet and he was grounded! He tried to suck up to his step-dad, but that didn’t work. He tried to beg, that didn’t work. At least his step-dad promised to pick him up if the laundry was done before the fireworks but that didn’t make Eddie feel much better.

And then the electricity went out.

“It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit” author Justin A. Reynolds.

Up and down the street, there were no lights, nothing. Eddie’s best friend, Xavier, stopped to see if Eddie had lights. So, did a few of their other friends, but the street was dark and their families were nowhere to be found. Now what?

Can you solve a catastrophe wearing only swim trunks and flip-flops?

Even from an adult point of view, “It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit” is hilarious ... at first. Author Justin A. Reynolds’ main character, Eddie, is smart, quick-thinking, and scheming, and his fast-talk rivals that of any comedian on-stage. But then, about the time Eddie’s “L-A-U-N-D-R-Y” chore comes due and his parents leave, so do the laughs. The story starts to slide and it’s not quite as funny anymore; in fact, it gets to be too much. Too much distraction, too much needless dialogue, too much length. It regains its mojo every now and then but not enough, maybe not enough to keep an 8-to-12-year-old intrigued.

Finish a tale like that with a cliffhanger that somewhat resembles a wet firecracker, and you could have a disappointed young reader. But it’ll depend: if your child won’t particularly notice unevenness in a story, he won’t mind this one. For a kid who needs a tight tale with a definite ending, though, “It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit” will just be a wash.

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“Fire Island: A Century in the Life of an American Paradise”

  • By Jack Parlett
  • c.2022, Hanover Square Press
  • $27.99, 272 pages

Ugh, it’s been a week. Two hours into Monday and your brain was already screaming for something fun, something far removed from work, a get-away that lets you play. You need to dance this weekend. You need to feel the sun on your face and sand between your toes. And you may need to bring “Fire Island” by Jack Parlett with you, too.

Geographically speaking, Manhattan and Fire Island are a mere 60 miles apart.

Sixty miles – and half a world. Stretched out and very narrow but walkable, the island is home to several vacation communities. Two of them, Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines, both located in about the middle of the island, feature prominently in LGBTQ history.

"Fire Island: A Century in the Life of an American Paradise" by Jack Parlett.

Parlett says that Native Americans sold Fire Island to White Europeans for a pittance, after which activities there were shifty and possibly illegal. By the 1820s, conversely, it was a hot vacation spot for the elite; in certain places, it was the place for finding romance, too, which Parlett says was a sign of the future. Famous men like poet Walt Whitman were big fans of Fire Island and over the next century, a then-quiet queer subculture began to grow.

Sometimes, it grew with families and children in the picture, the latter raised by nonconformists and theater people. Even so, despite these many changes, Parlett says that Fire Island wouldn’t be what it is today, were it not for a hurricane that hit the island on the afternoon of Sept. 21, 1938. It devastated Fire Island and resulted in a real-estate bust. Cottage prices fell significantly and vacationing there suddenly became affordable for gay New Yorkers.

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Throughout the 20th century, Fire Island became a playground for performers, thinkers, and writers such as James Baldwin and W. H. Auden. It was a source of controversy for locals who objected to nude bathing. It was a source of embarrassment for Noel Coward. It allowed everyday gay men and women to dance, drink, and party freely.

And later on, it was a place to mourn ...

Considering that this is a book about a getaway destination, “Fire Island” isn’t much of a vacation-y read. It’s actually pretty dry, in fact, and filled with people that were once very famous but aren’t exactly household names anymore. Their drama and the love triangles they struggled with are mildly interesting, in the way that you might perceive great-grandma’s old Confidential magazines in the attic.

“Fire Island: A Century in the Life of an American Paradise” author Jack Parlett.

And yet – the history. Author Jack Parlett offers a lot of solid information beyond those tired scandals to further show how Fire Island came to be a gay hot-spot and why that was important. These tales envelope the rest of the island, as well as current events in America, as a whole, and the impact those outside influences had on LGBTQ life, even today.

More scholarly than not, this book also includes a fair bit of memoir for readers who are looking for something less frivolous. If you want a book for fun, though, “Fire Island” is weak.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at marconews.com.