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The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander

Published by Walden Pond Press

Pages: 320

Ages: Middle Grade (8-12)

Publishers Summary: Do you need something? Mac can get it for you. It’s what he does—he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Their methods might sometimes run afoul of the law, or at least the school code of conduct, but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can pay him, Mac is on your side. His office is located in the East Wing boys’ bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming.

Or at least it was, until one particular Monday. It starts with a third grader in need of protection. And before this ordeal is over, it’s going to involve a legendary high school crime boss named Staples, an intramural gambling ring, a graffiti ninja, the nine most dangerous bullies in school, and the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in almost seventy years. And that’s just the beginning. Mac and Vince soon realize that the trouble with solving everyone else’s problems is that there’s no one left to solve yours.

Mac and his friend Vince are the end-all and be-all of their local school. Kids from kindergarten up into(sometimes) high school with even the occasional adult come to them in search of a resolutions. You have a problem? Mac will find a solution and Vince will figure out how to make it work. Unfortunately, life isn’t always so simple. When a previously mythological threat invades their territory it not only means trouble for the student body, but near tragedy for the dynamic duo. With their ultimate goal being to help their fellow students while also secretly stashing away funds for a Chicago Cubs World Series game, will it all come tumbling down with a big bully invasion? More importantly, will their friendship still be intact when all is said and done?

Where do I even begin? As I was reading The Fourth Stall I had images of my son in a few years, he’d just completed his first reading of the book and he’s desperately trying to form complete thoughts about his take on the book. It would probably sound a little like this…”Oh man, you wouldn’t even believe! They worked in a bathroom! Oh, but there’s baseball! Oh, and this guy who keeps telling the best jokes! There’s even a convertible, but it chases him down! And all this money! There was even a guy who was a tree branch!…” You get the picture. It’s exactly like that, but better. There is humor, adventure, suspense, mystery and much much more.

Now, before I get into the characters and their relationships I wanted to mention a couple of things first. One of the things I absolutely struggle with when reading is knowing how the story is going to end very early on in my reading. Maybe because I read a fair amount, but almost always I can guess an ending within the first 30 to 50 pages of a book which is often devastating, truly. Chris Rylander has now permanently cemented himself as one of my favorite storytellers for this very reason, well the opposite actually. Because I’m always guessing the ending I was certain I had The Fourth Stall figured out by the time I was about 100 pages in, which is still quite good considering. Well, I was completely wrong…completely. It was so refreshing! Not only was I wrong the first time, but a couple more times after that in fact. In addition to this incredible aspect, I also loved the way the story was told. Chris wrote it in such a way that it made it sound like the main character was speaking to you constantly, not just in first person, but almost like a reading a blog because the word usage was so casual and appropriate for the age group. It made the reading extremely quick and the connection with the characters that much better.

As for the characters…oh, how I loved Mac, but if I’m being honest I loved Vince even more. Perhaps it was Vince’s humor, his quiet behavior, his smarts or even just the fact that he seemed so real with his misfortune that I just wanted to reach out to make his life better. No matter, they were both hilarious in their own ways, but I do have to say Vince’s grandma is probably one of the funniest non-present characters ever in a book. She’s always coming up with the hilarious off-the-wall one-liners that Vince uses in his daily life. I was constantly cracking up over this as well as a few other scenes in the book. Chris Rylander’s humor is spot on for middle grade readers, well, and adults obviously too. Just take a look at this quote from a passage in the book…

A plate of Oreo cookies sat in front of him and he slowly brought one to his mouth and took a bite. I swear I heard the Oreo scream faintly as his teeth sank in. (p. 174, The Fourth Stall ARC)

Hilarious. It’s those subtle personifications as well as the exchanges between characters that truly make the book come alive. It was also the relationships between the characters that shined through. So much of the story revolves around friendship, trust, honesty and growing up which is almost always the most difficult part about being in this age group. People change so much in late grade school into middle school, often friends are lost and gained. But what I enjoyed most about Mac and Vince’s relationship was their willingness to forgive, to see past each other’s faults and strive to remember their friendship.

Most of us have struggled through, or will at some point, a difficult time in life when everything we know is challenged. For Mac it comes during his grade school years when he’s at the top of his game. Hoping to one day attend the World Series and watch the Chicago Cubs play, he’s suddenly questioning even this. In an instant his life is turned upside down, there are bullies and spies everywhere he turns and he’s not even sure he can trust his closest friends. In the end though it’s Mac’s character and integrity that shines through as well as his concern for his friends. This is what makes The Fourth Stall a superb read; it’s characters, their relationships with one another and how they react when trust has been betrayed. The Fourth Stall is an excellent middle grade novel that readers will devour and enjoy immensely.

The1stdaughter Recommends: 10 and up. A superb story that young and older readers alike will enjoy immensely. Be prepared to be surprised by the twists and turns Chris Rylander throws at you throughout this tale of friendship and growth during an often difficult age.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Walden Pond Press, for sending a copy for review! Find them on Twitter, Facebook and at their Blog!
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Make sure to stop by all of the tour stops to learn more about The Fourth Stall and possibly even enter for a chance to win your very own copy!

The Fourth Stall Blog Tour – First Week Stops:

Monday 4/4 – Interview at Cynsations
Tuesday 4/5 – Guest post at My Friend Amy
Wednesday 4/6 – Review at There’s a Book
Thursday 4/7 – Review/Giveaway at 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday 4/7 – Interview at Anita Laydon Miller’s Middle Grade Blog
Friday 4/8 – Fourth Stall editor Jordan Brown interviews author Chris Rylander at Alice Pope’s SCBWI Children’s Market Blog
Saturday 4/9 – Review at Bri Meets Books
Sunday 4/10 – Guest Post at 5 Minutes for Books
Sunday 4/10 – Review at Alison’s Bookmarks

13 Responses to Book Review: The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander

  1. Jana says:

    When I reviewed it on my blog I quoted the exact same line!!

    • That’s hilarious! I love it! That scene with the oreos was one of my absolute favorites. His description of how they all cowered away from him was hilarious. I think I may need to go re-read it again right now! LOL

  2. Gina says:

    Oh, how cool! I read this one a few weeks back….loads of fun…and will be featuring it next week with the blog tour. As for your review, GREAT job! You mentioned so many of the points I loved about the title as well….and really, how can you NOT have fun with the humor? Actually found myself initially reading (in my mind) with a Godfather-esque accent. LOL. Will definitely be checking in on the rest of this week’s tour. Happy reading!

    • Oh my! That’s so good! I hate to admit this….but I’ve never seen the Godfather all the way through. I know, it’s a crime in and of itself! I’m hoping to rectify that soon. 😉

      Thank you so much! I can’t wait to see your review as well, I know we’ll have lots to talk about after it’s posted. 🙂

  3. I love the use of voice in this book and I really enjoyed the read. Great concept and story pulls through. Walden Pond Press is knocking it out of the park lately with their releases. I interviewed Chris awhile ago on my blog about writing this book. I was a little ahead of the blog tour. I was too excited to sit on the interview! Great review!

  4. Amused says:

    That cover is genius! Granted, I suppose it’s reference to the Godfather may be lost on the youngsters it would appeal to but it cracks me up!

  5. […] over at There’s a Book mentions not being able to guess the ending. Count me in that camp. Often with middle grade books, I […]

  6. Ok… sold…. looking for it now…. this sounds amazing ans funny… things I love! 🙂

  7. […] looking forward to reading in the next few years, Chris Rylander. His recent debut novel, The Fourth Stall was reviewed here at There’s A Book and the sequel, The Fourth Stall Part II, is due to be […]

  8. […] over at There’s a Book mentions not being able to guess the ending. Count me in that camp. Often with middle grade books, I […]

  9. omg , i love this book so much that i can’t put it down!

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