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Fuzzy Mud

Review

Fuzzy Mud

Beloved author Louis Sachar unexpectedly combines bullying and environmental disaster in his latest novel, FUZZY MUD.
 
People love Louis Sachar’s novel HOLES for all sorts of reasons, but one of the reasons I think it’s so successful is the way it manages to piece together seemingly unrelated stories into a narrative that eventually feels exactly right, as if it just couldn’t have been constructed any other way. This kind of juxtaposition seems to come naturally to Sachar, whether in HOLES and its sequel SMALL STEPS, in the more recent book THE CARDTURNER (which brings together a teenager and the card game bridge, for Pete’s sake), or even in his earlier works like SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL, in which all kinds of zaniness gets mashed together into a crazy, wonderful whole. 
 
 It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that in his latest novel, FUZZY MUD, Sachar manages to place a story about bullying in the context of an impending environmental disaster --- and have it actually make sense at the end of the day. FUZZY MUD starts off as what seems like a fairly straightforward school drama but winds up being about a lot more than that. Tamaya Dhilwaddi isn’t allowed to walk home alone from school. She’s more than happy to walk with her older neighbor, Marshall Walsh, but lately Marshall has seemed distant and skittish. Tamaya’s not sure if it’s because eighth grader Marshall’s embarrassed to be walking home with a fifth-grade girl or what --- all she knows is that she’s sad that their friendship has changed. 
 
FUZZY MUD is scary and suspenseful, but it’s also got an emotional heft and a genuine heart.
 
As for Marshall, he’s finding middle school miserable now that Chad Hilligas is big man on campus. Marshall made the mistake of doubting one of Chad’s tall tales, and now Chad seems to have it in for Marshall. So, in order to avoid a fight with Chad, Marshall does what he’s promised their parents he’d never do --- he cuts through the mysterious woods behind the school, and Tamaya (of course) follows him. It’s there that they --- and eventually Chad --- encounter the so-called Fuzzy Mud of the title, and set off a string events that could very well lead to the end of the world.
 
The drama of Tamaya and Marshall’s story and its repercussions is interspersed with transcripts from congressional testimony that hints at the scope and importance of their discoveries. It might be easy for kids to tune out those sections, but that’s ok --- they’ll still get the gist of Sachar’s story. At the end of the day, it’s not (just) a story about bullying or about environmental disaster, either --- it’s more about recognizing the potential impact of our actions, about taking responsibility and about telling the truth even when doing so is uncomfortable or scary. FUZZY MUD is scary and suspenseful, but it’s also got an emotional heft and a genuine heart.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 26, 2015

Fuzzy Mud
by Louis Sachar

  • Publication Date: March 21, 2017
  • Genres: Young Adult 10+, Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling
  • ISBN-10: 0385370229
  • ISBN-13: 9780385370226