Get it? It's a reference to Moby Dick! Like in the title of this book! Oh, I see - you got it, you just didn't laugh.
Well, that was embarrassing. But not as embarrassing as Ishmael's life. He is the world's only know sufferer of Ishmael Leseur's Syndrome, of which the main symptom is a life filled with embarrassing incidents.
Starting at a new school, Ishmael has enough humiliation on his plate with a bully who's after him, a girl he's secretly in love with, and a crippling fear of public speaking. Then he's asked to look after the new kid - James Scobie, who looks like a bit of a weirdo. it hardly seems fair. But James Scobie isn't what he appears. He is a boy who doesn't feel fear, and he's about to teach Ishmael about confronting Ishmael Leseur's Syndrome head on.
I did actually have a whale of a time reading this book. Ishmael is a loveable lead and his narration goes off on tangents and into other stories in a very entertaining, Tristram Shandy-like way.
(For anyone who doesn't know, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy is a book written in 1759 by Laurence Sterne - who strikes quite a pose, as you can see...
Tristram narrates the story of his life and goes off on so many tangents that by half-way through the book he's only just been born.)
Ishmael doesn't take half the book, but he has a similar style, and when he does get to his birth story it is very very funny.
The characters in this book really stand out. Orazio Zorzetto, who looks at the world and sees only hot girls; Bill, who spends most of his time in another world (probably Middle Earth); Miss Tarango, the English teacher who has a unique way of dealing with bullies and is also drop dead beautiful, and James Scobie, strange and fearless, who changes everything.
Bauer brings his characters together in a rawkous comedy, with an current of sadness running underneath. The book teaches you to embrace embarrassment and laugh at life rather than fearing it - because big, nasty things do sometimes lurk under the surface (the whale in the room?) and so you shouldn't sweat the small stuff.
Quirky, funny and lovely.
Don't Call Me Ishmael by Michael Gerard Bauer