Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: Dan vs. Nature by Don Calame

Before I start off this book review, I believe I should give you due warning. It is highly likely that none of what I say will be able to accurately describe the hilarity and sheer weirdness of everything that goes on in this book. The only truly effective way to enjoy it to the fullest is to read it yourself.

Anyway, the front cover describes the book as “an outrageously funny and wickedly raunchy romp in the woods” (Here, see for yourselves).

This is an understatement.

Shy and scrawny Dan Weekes spends his time creating graphic novels inspired by his dream girl and looking out for his mom as she dates every man in the state of California. Then his mom drops a bomb: she and her latest beau, Hank, are engaged, and she’s sending her "two favorite men" on a survivalist camping trip to "bond." Determined to trick Hank into showing his true — flawed — colors on the trip, Dan and his nerdy germaphobe best friend, Charlie, prepare a series of increasingly gross and embarrassing pranks. But the boys hadn’t counted on a hot girl joining their trip or on getting separated from their wilderness guide—not to mention the humiliating injuries Dan suffers in the course of terrorizing his stepdad-to-be. With a man-hungry bear on their trail, no supplies, and a lot of unpleasant itching going on, can Dan see his plan through now that his very survival depends on Hank?

The first thing I tend to look at when reading a book is the characters and these were spot-on. Dan is a sympathetic hero (progressively more sympathetic as the poor kid is subjected to more and more disasters in the woods) and relentlessly hilarious in his descriptions of everything going on around him. For example, “The entire wrestling team lunges at once, gripping my arms, my legs, my shirt, my hair, stretching me out like da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.” Charlie, his germaphobe wisecracking best friend, is similarly hilarious and almost terrifying in his prank-planning skills and, Hank, the poor stepdad in the picture, is the most awkward mountain man/dentist in history. And of course, there’s Penelope, the aforementioned “hot girl” who has snark to match Charlie blow for blow and is unexpectedly an adept marks-woman when it comes to hunting squirrels. In her characterization especially I have to give Calame kudos because she proves herself both smart and capable in a way that’s not subverted for plot or any other purposes throughout the book.

Similarly to the characters, the plot of this book is hysterical. The pranks are gross and whether they work or not, basically are page- bound laughter just waiting to happen. Just when you can’t think the trip could get worse, it does. Multiple times. As the book progresses, it really is surprising that for what they’ve been through, the characters are still (mostly- I’m not giving any spoilers) in one piece.

Finally, I believe this review would be a farce if I did not at least mention Baby Robbie. What is Baby Robbie, you ask? This unfortunate child is Dan’s Life Skills class Real-a-Lot doll who, although unmentioned in the blurb, goes under several very unfortunate circumstances throughout the survivalist trip. Let’s just say, this fake baby is going to be having fake nightmares for weeks.

Anyway, I doubt that I’m really able to do it justice in this review but if you’re looking for a book hilarious enough to make you laugh out loud in the middle of a quiet study hall, this is the one. And come see Don Calame and all of your other favorite authors at TBF on May 20th!
Happy reading,

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