XL
by Brown, Scott






Will, who has always been troubled by his size, begins to grow taller on his sixteenth birthday, and his new height causes others to see him differently.





Scott Brown grew up in Durham, North Carolina, and began his career in journalism writing for Entertainment Weekly, Wired, GQ, and Time, among others. He was chief drama critic for New York Magazine from 2010 to 2014, and received the 2013-2013 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. Lately, he's written a lot of TV: HBO's Sharp Objects, based on the novel by Gillian Flynn; WGN's critically acclaimed Manhattan, and the Stephen-King-derived suspenser Castle Rock for Hulu, for which he received a 2018 Writers Guild Award.

Scott also co-wrote the book for Beetlejuice the Musical (with Emmy-nominated writer-producer Anthony King) for Warner Bros. Theatricals. Also with King, he co-wrote and co-composed the off-Broadway musical comedy Gutenberg! The Musical! Off the clock, Scott likes to play piano, hang out with his kids, and scream back at the car radio. He lives in Massachusetts. Learn more about Scott on Twitter at @scottabridged.





The last thing Will wants to do is celebrate his sixteenth birthday. It's a reminder that he's in the bottom one percent in stature at four feet, eleven inches tall. Making things worse, Will catches his two closest friends-Drew (his stepbrother) and Monica (his secret crush)-kissing. Just when things can't get any lower, they start getting weirder. For the first time in years, Will starts growing. And not in tiny amounts either. As his spurts take him above five, then six, and even seven feet, he gets a radically different view of the world-one in which he isn't the butt of hobbit jokes. Nevertheless, no matter how extra large his new body, it is dwarfed by the long-held insecurities he still must contend with. Heavy on wit and humor, Brown's be-careful-what-you-wish-for tale is a delightful romp with heart. Will's sardonic voice strikes the perfect tone, and the cast of characters plays wonderfully off his bizarre situation. A great read for teens, who will readily identify with the double challenge of physical and social changes. Grades 8-11. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.





When you surpass the scale to which you've drawn your ideal self, are you man or monster? 4'11" isn't a height, it's a sequence of numbers that makes growth-stunted Will Daughtry invisible in high school's wild kingdom. His diminutive height is countered by a hearty wit, his defense against the pain of not getting what he really wants: a girl and a growth spurt. The girl, Monica, is brainy, beautiful, and unfettered in San Diego's domestic homogeny. They've been pals since he and his best friend-cum-stepbrother, Drew, discovered an uncharted beach with her, solidifying their bond as a trio. When Will gets the courage to break the vows of their rule book à trois and 1) deceive Drew 2) ask Monica out, he falters only to have the nail of failure driven further in when Drew and Monica hook up instead. With their triptych fractured, a monstrous frustration mounts in Will—so does an appetite and subsequent growth. Will meets another challenge: His ego is growing, too, an d the three that once were, might possibly never be again. Will's first-person narration is ripe with a humor that marries dry wit, invented vocabulary, and an honest-to-goodness good time even when things are dreadful. The son of a zoologist, Will examines his Californian enclosure like a brash and bawdy Goodall. Will, Drew, and most secondary characters are white; Monica is cued Latinx. A coming-of-height specimen whose humor you won't outgrow. (Fiction. 13-18) Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





I woke up to the smell of fear.
 
You know what fear smells like? When you’re not quite five feet tall? And turning sixteen?
 
Cake.
 
Maybe that’s just me.
 
For normal people, birthdays-the cake, the singing, another candle every year-signify impending adulthood, which is so exciting, you actually appreciate the lame-assery that comes attached. But for us Smalls, birthdays never lose that paper-hat vibe . . . because that’s all there is to them. Seeing your name in baby-blue frosting, year after year, from the same exact altitude-well, it has a way of shaming your testicles right back to where they descended from. In my crazier moments, I used to think the parties themselves were keeping me small. Which is why I’d come to dread the sound of two little words:
 
“Will! Breakfast!”
 
My dad is such an awful actor, it’s almost charming. He’s just too straightforward by nature. His inability to fake anything-it makes him a great dad. Makes him a natural with zoo animals, too-zoo animals like a straight talker-so that works out well for him professionally, as a zookeeper. But it makes him just awful at surprise parties. “Will! Breakfast!” was something my father said precisely once a year. On my birthday. My big day. My big, smoking crater of a day. I woke up, smelled cake, and thought, Oh, God, no.
 
Which is kind of a shitty thing to think when a cake’s been baked for you.
 
But consider this: a birthday’s a promise. Something changes today! By birthday the sixteenth, I’d discovered otherwise. Every promise had been broken, five promises running, because biology, God bless, can be a real dick sometimes.
 
So I stalled in bed. Faked a sleep-in for a precious half hour. Any longer, and masturbation would be suspected. This birthday, like all the rest, just needed to happen as quickly as possible, then vanish again. So I could vanish again.
 
That was my top-ranked fantasy on the morning of my sixteenth birthday. Invisibility. To be a shadow. He who slips past, unseen. With one (very notable) exception, that was as wild as my dreams got. Slipping Past Unseen was how I planned to get through high school, in the hopes that college would be better. And if it wasn’t? I’d slip past that, too.
 
There was just one thing I wanted to take with me. Just one person I wanted to be seen by. That Notable Exception.
 
She’s why I wanted to slip through this day with as little trouble as possible and get to what would happen next, the thing I didn’t even dare name, even though I’d spent the last fortyish nights imagining it.
 
But first: cake. Should I just rip off the Band-Aid? Or attempt evasive action?
 
I considered the sycamore outside my window. I could shinny down the trunk in twenty-five seconds, if I had to. Which might’ve been impressive in a dude of normal proportions. When I did it, I looked like a performing lemur. Something you’d reward for the effort with a slice of mango and a pat on the head.
 
Have I mentioned how deeply, how furiously I hate pats on the head?
 
Anyway, I got dressed, like a good lemur. A grateful lemur, desirous of cake.
 
I took a deep breath and padded downstairs, right into the teeth of it: my birthday ambush.
 
“Birthday ambush!” my dad barked, in a voice usually reserved for lemurs that hopped the fence. He came toastering up from behind the love seat-an impressive, slightly scary, always embarrassing maneuver for a middle-aged man, especially one of above-average height.
 
My father, Brian Daughtry (6¢1²), the zoo’s chief primate keeper, was the right size for a keeper. He had presence, like a force field that didn’t feel forced. It was just this funny assumption of control-nothing bullying or desperate about it-that calmed nervous animals and also nervous people who were afraid nervous animals might eat them. He oversaw the primate staff, gave presentations to all the bigwigs and VIPs who toured the zoo, and spoke gently and evenly to reporters when the rare animal died on the zoo’s watch. He also had great hair. My stepmother called it That Irish Mane. I called it Humble Hero Hair.
 
Brian Daughtry presided over things: bad things, good things, anything.
 
You preside over things, y’know. Not under them. Is my point.
 
Anyway, as Brian presided, Laura (5¢8²) glided into the living room with a blazing cake and a half-sung “Happy birthday, Will!” and her perfect yogurt-commercial brunette ponytail swinging. Laura advised food shippers on safety and best practices. She believed passionately in safety and best practices, and she had the greatest handle on stepmomming I’ve ever seen in a stepmom. She didn’t try to mom me, for starters, and she didn’t try to friend me, either, or freeze me out. Laura was simply and plausibly Cool, without attempting to be Cool. She was what they call “at home in her skin.”
 
I appreciate that quality in people. Always been a little low on it myself.
 
“Happy birthday!” Brian sang horribly. “Happy birthday, baby, oh, I love you so! Six. Teen. Candles!” No oldies, no matter how golden, were safe from Brian Daughtry.
 
A little behavioral biology for you: when Large Things advance on a Small Thing, singing screamy falsetto and brandishing flaming baked goods, the Small Thing’s natural, paleomammalian reaction is to back up. Which I did-
 
-and collided with something as solid as a basketball goal.
 
Something that was, in a sense, a basketball goal.
 
“Whudup, Willennium. Ready to become a man?”
 
And there was Drew (5¢113/4²). Number 38. “The Special.” Lewis Keseberg High School junior varsity basketball’s pride and joy. Keseberg varsity basketball’s future. And my almost brother. My near brother, my blood brother.
 
“What happened to practice?” I asked. Drew, as a rule, did not miss practice. He was grateful for every nanosecond of practice he got, because every nanosecond brought him closer to fulfilling the Plan.
 
It hadn’t started without a hitch, the Plan. But Drew kept at it.
 






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