Originally published April 2014
You know that moment when you are reading a book, wondering exactly who the hero is, and then, Kablammo?
Debut author Mike Freedman offers up a few in “School Board,” a raucous take on the most local of politics, the school board. At the center of the story is 18-year-old Tucker “Catfish” Davis, a high school senior running out of options when it comes to being a man of the people. His stint as senior class president is quickly coming to a close, but he’s not done rabble-rousing.
Catfish is a smartass. He’s the guy who conveniently changes facts to suit his version of any story, whether it’s a grade, securing valet services for the prom, or quitting a job before he could be fired. There’s not an adult he crosses paths with that really likes him, aside from perhaps, his mother, yet just about every one of them circles in orbit, a pawn on Tucker’s chessboard.
Don’t get me wrong—Tucker’s not a bad guy. Just, a smartass. His quirky adoration of Huey and Earl Long and all things in the Bayou exasperate teachers and administrators but endear him to “the little people”—including a handful of his classmates and the residents of a local senior citizens home. When Tucker stumbles upon an issue with which he can build a campaign for the local school board—the passage of a TIF that would save one business in particular millions of dollars—he targets his former Little League coach, Walker Moore, the sitting school board president.
The bulk of the book is a tug-of-war between Walker, a former BMOC and now a high-ranking exec at a Houston-based energy corporation, and Tuck, who seems to have infinite energy for creating chaos where there is none. As the story unfolds, Walker realizes his employer is less than altruistic, and Tuck realizes there are things more important than winning, not the least of which is the feelings of the girl he has asked to prom, and those of an old reporter who becomes a friend.
That moment I referred to earlier? I don’t know about you, but I tend to be a visual reader—I like to imagine certain scenes in my head. And this one in particular? With heads of lettuce whizzing by him, I can’t think of a time I was prouder of a smartass. Wanted to hug him, I tell ya.
At just over 230 pages, this is an engaging weekend read.