Brett Gerson is a typical teenage kid, only that’s not true at all. His family is super rich and he has every luxury he ever needed, that is until cops show up one day and arrest his father. His father is a crooked businessman—as everyone now refers to him—and now has 3 ½ years in prison and Brett’s rich fantasy life is forever changed. His mom, his sister and he can no longer afford their usual lives and Brett has to even get a job. He hates his father and he treats everyone pretty badly. Brett is the typical, self-centered kid with a big ego who can’t be seen with his guard down. He makes an unexpected friend in his former bus driver and new boss in the pool cleaning business, Alfie, but when tough circumstances befall Brett’s life again how will he respond? Will he finally learn the life lessons that Alfie tried to explain to him all along?
Brett is a fifteen year old boy with a rich father, a mansion with swimming pool, and a 5000 dollar stereo all his own. He’s a pretty good looking kid and if only he could land the perfect girlfriend, Nicole, his life would be perfect. But his life doesn’t become perfect, in fact it, as he would put it, turns to crap. His father gets busted for some illegal stockbroker work and is sentenced to three and ½ years in prison. All the family’s assets and money now go to paying off his debts and lawyer bills and the family has to sell the house and move in with Brett’s great Aunt Mary who lives “on the other side of the tracks.” On top of it all, Brett has to get a job flipping burgers and he hates it. Granted, Brett has a terrible attitude. He’s a typical teenager who thinks he knows everything, is never wrong, and who refuses to show manners, to most anyone. His boss hates him and the feeling is mutual. Brett hates his father and is mean to his every time his mom makes him go visit the prison.
On one afternoon he runs into Alfie, a man in his 70s who used to drive the school bus that Brett rode and who used to clean Brett’s pool. Alfie offers Brett a job helping him clean pools and in the midst of quitting/getting fired from his burger job, Brett agrees. Cleaning pools turns out to be hard work, long days, and a taste of humiliation as Brett cleans pools he used to own. In the midst of it all though, Brett manages to make a friend in this easy going old man.
Alfie becomes a great mentor to Brett; he teaches him about foods, helps him learn to drive, and tries to give him good advice on forgiving his father. Brett respects Alfie and appreciates all he does for him, but forgiving his dad is a terrible idea and he can’t refer to that man without calling him an idiot and a loser.
He feels like his dad has ruined his whole life and there is nothing that will convince him otherwise. He refuses to be seen as weak, to let anyone in at all. It isn’t until one terrible morning that his heart begins to soften. Brett finds Alfie collapsed on his floor with a heart attack and Alfie dies the next day. This event rocks Brett’s world. He has lost a beloved friend. But in the midst of his pain, he finds the start of healing and reconciliation with his father. He drives up to see his father and the relationship begins to mend. Brett has finally learned a little lesson in what it means to love, not because of what someone does or doesn’t do, but for no reason at all.
In my Life
I liked this story because it gives a first person account of a self-centered, proud, and stubborn kid who loves money and hates his father and I think a lot of people are more like Brett than we prefer to admit, or at least we can be. I think everyone has struggled to forgive another, been frustrated by unfair circumstances, hated the world at times, and in the midst of difficult times just wanted everything to be easy again. Brett’s story gives us the thoughts most people are too proud to admit but too proud not to think; it also gives us a neat reminder of redemption and how a person’s heart can be softened and relationships mended.
In the Classroom
I would recommend this book for high school or junior high students. I think it is an easy read, but there is some language and I think that high schoolers could relate well to Brett. I think a lot of teenagers think just like him and this story could be one to challenge them and teach them a lesson in love. - CM