Killer Pizza -- Greg Taylor
14-year-old Toby McGill secretly wants to be a world-famous chef, and scoring a job at Killer Pizza is just the first step in what he hopes will be a long and illustrious career.
He may be right. Except that the career might not be exactly what he expects: Killer Pizza isn't just a pizza shop. It's also the front for a secret organization of monster hunters. And Toby has been hand-picked as a new recruit.
R. L. Stine was the perfect person to blurb this book. It reads quite a bit like an extended (340 page) Goosebumps novel. It's plot-driven, with stock characters (Strobe is the Cranky But Goodhearted Tough Guy with a Checkered Past, Annabel is the Rich and Popular Hottie Who Wants More Out Of Life Than Gossiping By The Pool, Toby is the Everyman), and the prose very often reads like a novelization of a movie script*:
And just like that, all was quiet once again in the alley. Like an afterthought to the horrific attack, a side section of the box that was barely attached to the ravaged structure separated and fell to the ground. Light from the streetlamp at the end of the alley revealed there was nothing left inside. Not even a shoe. Or a shred of clothing. The guttata had been very thorough. Or hungry. (79)
The upside-down Hummer's high beams--still on and pointed at the beast--lent a dramatic, backlit glow to the scene in the middle of the road. Still dazed from its up-close-and-personal meeting with the Hummer, the creature was nonetheless shaking off the dust and getting ready to resume its battle with the trio. (300)
I found the dialogue mostly stilted and unbelievable (and Toby's odd tendency to drop his 'g's when he was "relaxin'" was distracting and just... weird), and I felt that there was a lot of telling vs. showing:
Yes, Toby was putting on his apron and taking out the pots and pans. There was a very particular reason for his kitchen session, beyond just wanting to experiment with a new recipe. Toby had been surprised and pleased to discover that cooking actually calmed him. (143)
As usual, Feiwel & Friends has produced a very attractive package -- the endpapers look like the inside of a greasy pizza box and the designer made good use of that ridiculously fun classic horror font -- but in this case, for me, that was pretty much all the book had going for it. While it certainly might appeal to MG fans of R. L. Stine and Darren Shan, the lack of interesting characters and suspense made it a book I had to force myself to finish, rather than one that left me hungry for more**. The next time I need a Spooky Midwest Fix, I'll re-watch Eerie, Indiana.
*Which makes sense, as the author is a screenwriter.
**I do want to try the pizza recipe, though.
Book Source: Finished copy from the publisher.