The Last Martin

Friesen, Jonathan

Book

Barcode: 9780310723202

Release date: 23/04/2012

This product is unavailable

Thirteen year-old Martin Boyle, the most fearful hypochondriac born into a family of worriers, doesn't want to visit the family cemetery. Truth is, none of the Boyles are thrilled about the annual trip to visit their war dead. It shames Mr. Boyle to think of his once courageous family line, and Mrs. Boyle is certain the greenish moss growing on the headstones carries disease. But after strict no-touch warnings from Mrs. Boyle (and an anti-bacterial scrub down), Martin ventures into the private cemetery for a grim remembrance. He's surrounded by stones that bear his name. Martin, the Boyle family name, has been given to the firstborn male in each Boyle household for centuries. While his father offers a speech honoring Martins who have gone before, Martin wanders among his ancestors. The writing on the old headstones is hardly legible, and he scratches at birth and death dates with a stick. His analytical mind gravitates toward the numbers, and his stomach sinks. The pattern is clear: Martin 1770-1819. Martin 1819-1835. Martin 1835-1899. Martin 1899-1956. Martin 1956-1996. There's always a Martin. Only one Martin. Martin panics. Not because he was born in 1996―that only fits―but because his uncle and aunt are expecting their first child, a boy, in three months. Tradition dictates they will name him Martin. He's seen the graveyard. He has proof of the curse. When the next Martin is born, he'll die. Martin's parents believe the cemetery pattern is a coincidence, and a sign that their son needs professional help. It's a belief that's about to get stronger because their son, with the help of a homeless boy named Poole, is about to make his first decision of consequence: with twelve weeks until the baby's arrival and no time to waste, Martin chooses to live. Little does he know that the key to his survival―the cornerstone of the curse―lies embedded beneath two hundred years of history, in an inscription that dooms the entire Boyle family line.

Review
The revelation that every time a new Martin is born into his family another one kicks the bucket stuns, bums and ultimately lights a rocket under 13-year-old Martin Boyle. Friesen presents his earnest narrator as a lad sounder the influence of his fanatically safety-conscious mother that he flies into a panic at any encounter with nature ("They're only trees. They're only ugly trees. They're only ugly, boy-hating trees. They're only ugly, boy-hating, hungry---") and wears a portable air bag on the school bus. The discovery of matching birth and death dates for all the Martins in the Boyle family cemetery sends Martin into a tailspin, but with help from a sturdy supporting cast he pulls out and firmly resolves to grab life with both hands while finding a way to break the "curse," if he can, in the few months remaining to him until his Aunt Jenny's due date. These helpers notably include Poole, a young vagrant with a relentlessly sunny outlook, and classmate Julia, to whom Martin fears to speak until she takes his developing story about the adventures of a White Knight and his Lady Love and creates gorgeous illustrations. Spiced with plenty of slapstick, the yarn speeds its protagonist through a succession of highs, lows and improbable triumphs on the way to a hilariously melodramatic finish. (Adventure. 11-13) (Kirkus Reviews)

Gr 5-7-Martin Boyle was "born dead," his lifeless body placed on his mother. Suddenly the baby moves. From that moment on, his mother does everything in her power to protect him from anything that could possibly harm him. In fact, she crosses over into paranoia and obsessive behavior. Martin's friend Charley is used to him getting on the bus each day with his portable air bag strapped to his chest and his mother running to school to check on his safety. During an annual trip to visit the old family cemetery, the boy realizes a strange correlation among the Martins in the family. It is tradition that the first boy be named Martin, but each time a new Martin is born, the old one must die. His Aunt Jenny is pregnant with a boy, due shortly. Martin knows that his days are numbered so his actions become reckless, which lands him in detention and gives him a chance to get to know his crush, Julia. He has been writing a story about a white knight, a black knight, and a princess, which Julia loves. The story symbolizes an escape that both Julia, a foster child, and Martin crave. The crisis of Martin's impending death is the joining factor in this odd hodgepodge of characters, including Poole, a spirited but unkempt homeless boy. They form a bond in trying to keep Martin alive. This is a sobering read in many respects as many of the adults are directly responsible for the emotional baggage these children carry. Julia fights against it, Poole runs away, Martin's sister cowers, but Martin triumphs. Minor characters such as the physical education teacher who employs completely illegal means of punishment will further fuel readers' angst. This is a great choice for discussions.-Julie Shatterly, W.A. Bess Elementary School, Gastonia, NC (School Library Journal)

The Last Martin" is a fast-paced and quirky story of growing up, discovering your independence, and learning to truly live. When Martin Boyle concludes that his name is cursed and he has only weeks to live, his entire world is altered. Long an outsider at school and perpetually worried due to the influence of his hypochondriac mother, Martin finds his pending demise a source of dread, but also a catalyst for dramatic changes. In short, in the face of death, Martin begins to learn what it means to live---but will that prove a lesson that comes too late? Jonathan Friensen grabs the reader's attention from the start, and the pace hardly lets up through the next 266 pages. The book is written from Martin's perspective so it takes a bit before the various elements of the story come together clearly, but once they do it is a worthwhile adventure. Medieval knights battle, friends are made, crushes blossom, wars are reenacted, and all the while death edges ever closer. Touching on themes of fate, friendship, family relationships, and navigating the difficulties of school life as a teenager, I found "The Last Martin" to be a fun read and a strangely inspiring tale. (The Dove Foundation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jonathan Friesen is an author, speaker, and youth writing coach from Mora, Minnesota. His first young adult novel, Jerk, California, received the ALA Schneider Award. When he's not writing, speaking at schools, or teaching, Jonathan loves to travel and hang out with his wife and three kids.

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