Books
I like to read outside the generic box from time to time. Take a chance on something new and unknown. I found an old paperback called Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! at a books sale yesterday and I bought it. I'm damned glad that I did.

Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! is, as the title implies, a Young Adult novel. It was originally published in 1972, but it has pretty much stayed in print ever since. The most recent publication was in 2007.

Despite the title, the main character in Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! isn't Dinky, but a teenage boy named Tucker Woolf. He's a stoic lad, who has had little in the way of emotional relationships. A series of life-changing events is triggered when Tucker finds an abandoned cat near his Brooklyn Heights apartment. He takes the cat home, but is forced to get rid of it when his father develops an allergic reaction.

Tucker puts a sign on a tree advertising for a home for the cat. The ad is answered by Susan Hocker, who is called Dinky by everyone. Dinky is overweight. She has a morbid appetite, yet has a bright, inquisitive mind.

Tucker visits Dinky's place to see the cat, Nader, but is disturbed when Dinky allows the cat to eat too much. Like its owner, Nader becomes slow and lethargic. But Tucker continues to visit. Not to see Nader any more, but to see Dinky's visiting cousin, Natalia. The three form an odd friendship. But Tucker is much more interested in Natalia than Dinky.

Meanwhile, Dinky's mother is your average do-gooder. Her pet cause is recovering junkies. She cares so much about helping them and looking good in the eyes of her community that she is blind to the needs of her own family. Natalia has some pretty serious issues of her own, too. All of it adds up to more complications than Tucker is accustomed to dealing with.

And poor Dinky is forced to do something drastic to merely get the attention she desperately needs.

It may sound pretty typical, but Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! is so well-written. Not only does it deal with real, genuine concerns of any teenager, from any time, Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! is also extraordinarily funny. The book is full of laugh-out-loud scenes, especially when Dinky enters an uneasy relationship with a rabidly conservative fellow student.

Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! deserves the classic status it has attained. This novel belongs on the same shelf as YA masterpieces like The Outsiders and The Chocolate War.

Isn't it great when you discover a brand new author that you love? I'm not talking about a new writer on the horizon, though that's good, too. I'm talking about one that has a long oeuvre of published work. M. E. Kerr has been steadily publishing since Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!, which was her first book. If the rest are even half as good as this one, I have a lot of remarkable reading ahead of me.

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