Dodgeball High: By Bradley Sands, 188 pgs. By Mp

Bradley Sands is one of the foremost comedy writers in the bizarro fiction movement. He has a knack for writing likeably dislikeable characters and throwing them into wacky situations. In the case of Dodgeball High, that character is Justin Lucas. Justin is basically the coolest teenager ever, at least in his own mind. When his parents move and he has to go to a new school, he’s got to start from scratch to prove to his classmates else that he totally rules at everything. Except there’s one snag: at Dodgeball High, only one thing is studied, and it is way brutal.

There’s a lot more at risk at Dodgeball High’s dodgeball games than getting a rubber ball in your face. These kids have upped the ante. Dodgeball is a life or death matter. Fire. Explosions. Razorblades. Not everyone makes it out alive, but those who do will be well-rewarded. Fortunately, Justin knows what he’s doing. He’s cool under pressure, and a hell of a dodgeball player. Or is he?

What makes this book such a party is how it takes the concept of the unreliable narrator to such an extreme. Justin is one of those kids who has a habit of lucking into things and then taking full credit for them. When he makes a mind-blowing dodge or a killer throw, he chalks it up to his talent, even though it’s pretty clear that most of what goes right for him is a coincidence.

And he is such a kidder. He kids with his friends. Well, they aren’t really his friends, so much as classmates who have refrained from killing him or, in the case of his love interest, serial killer Dodie Manson, attempted to kill him and couldn’t do it. But he kids with the reader too. He’ll set up a scenario, only to throw in a “just kidding,” and explain what really happened. This stunt is handled so adeptly, that it never got old, and I laughed my butt off every time. If you haven’t read any Bradley Sands yet, this is a great place to start. –MP Johnson (Eraserhead Press, PO Box 10065, Portland, OR97269,