Literature: A Semester In The Life Of A Garbage Bag
“On registration day at taxidermy school
I distinctly saw the eyes of the stuffed moose
A 1988 YA comedy novel by Gordon Korman
. Luckless, frustrated sixteen-year-old eccentric Raymond Jardine is determined to score a summer trip to Theamelpos, a Greek island legendary for bestowing good luck on visitors. He ropes Sean Delancey, his English partner, into various schemes to land them both on the island. Complications ensue when they're partnered up with a girl they both like, when they have to plan the Halloween event of the season, and most especially when the deliberately obscure poet they've chosen for their English project turns out to have died after publishing only one poem.
This work provides examples of:
- The All-American Boy: Sean's grandfather refers to him as this, rather negatively.
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Nikki Delancey, very much so—complete with classic Blackmail.
- Appropriated Appellation: Raymond spends the entire book referring to Steve Semenski as "Cementhead", to Sean's disgust. When Steve finds out, though, he's so thrilled with the nickname that he gets it on a jacket.
- Book Dumb: Raymond's grades are pretty abysmal, although this is seen more as a function of his notoriously rotten luck than as a direct result of his intelligence or effort.
- Born Lucky: Steve Semenski, according to Raymond, was "born with a horseshoe up his diaper".
- Born Unlucky: Raymond.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Raymond, to a rather frightening extent. He spends a lot of his time engaging in weird tribal chanting rituals and shouting at the spirits in the sky that he's convinced are out to get him.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: According to Mindy, Sean is "the only one who can control" Raymond.
- Clueless Chick Magnet: Although Raymond is unaware of it, his misfortune doesn't seem to extend to the romance department, as he's got quite the female fanbase. When Sean tells him that Nikki likes him, he can only reply that he has "terrible luck with women" (and, since the girl he really likes still isn't interested in him, perhaps he's right).
- Cool Old Guy: Sean's grandfather, Patrick Delancey.
- Cosmic Plaything: Raymond not only believes himself to be this, but frequently can be found shouting at the mysterious forces that are ruining his life.
- Cupid Hates Odd Couples
- Deadpan Snarker: Raymond. Patrick Delancey ("Gramp") as well.
- Drowning Our Romantic Sorrows: ...in tomato juice.
- The Eeyore: Raymond.
- Friendship Denial: Sean is very insistent that Raymond not refer to him as a friend, even as they spend increasing amounts of time together outside of their English project (and as Raymond makes it increasingly clear that he regards Sean, not only as a friend, but as his best friend).
- Go-to Alias: The name "Gavin Gunhold" appears in several Gordon Korman novels in this capacity; here, it's the name of an actual (deceased) person, whom Sean's grandfather ends up impersonating.
- Grumpy Old Man: Sean's grandfather is living with Sean and his parents very much against his will and is bored out of his mind. He leavens up a lot after he becomes something of a viral sensation as "Gavin Gunhold"
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Well, English-project partners who end up spending a lot more time together than intended.
- High School
- Insane Equals Violent: Although Raymond never actually carries out his threats against others, even Sean is concerned that he might. Mindy O'Toole is terrified of him.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Raymond and Sean's grandfather bond almost immediately over their mutual obsession with bad weather forecasts, making it a little difficult for Sean to kick Raymond out of the house.
- Last Name Basis: Raymond always calls Sean "Delancey".
- Lazy Bum: Danny Eckerman.
- Loony Friends Improve Your Personality
- Lovable Jock: Sean.
- Love Dodecahedron: Sean and Raymond both like Ashley Bach, who is more interested in Sean's former best friend Steve Semenski. Meanwhile, Sean still has some feelings for his ex-girlfriend Mindy O'Toole (who is dating Danny Eckerman), and Nikki and her two friends like Raymond.
- Mistaken for Profound: Gavin Gunhold's poems (all but one of which were authored by Raymond and Sean, selecting words at random from a dictionary to get ideas).
- Morality Chain: Mindy theorizes that Sean is this to Raymond.
- My Sister Is Off Limits: how Sean reacts to Nikki's crush on Raymond (he doesn't need to worry—Raymond isn't interested, although he does go on one date with her after she blackmails them and says he had fun).
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: The reason Sean's grandfather would rather be living in the city.
- Odd Couple
- Only Friend: Sean to Raymond, seemingly.
- Only Sane Man: Poor Sean...
- Revenge Before Reason: In this case, Sean wants revenge against the SACGEN unit in part because it started a power outage that resulted in Raymond breaking his ankle, even though his plan to defeat SACGEN is inevitably going to be the death of Raymond's hopes to go to Theamelpos, which is the only thing Raymond really cares about.
- Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: "The Sapersteins", Mark and Marlene, who have been engaged since kindergarten and plan on running a family dentistry together (they both dress up as teeth for Halloween every year). Raymond describes them in his file by saying, "Just look for two people joined at the lips."
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter
- Suicide as Comedy: Part of the general Gallows Humor vibe associated with Raymond and his circumstances (naturally there is no actual suicide).
- Third-Person Person: Raymond, who always refers to himself as "Jardine".
- Vitriolic Best Buds: After spending half the book wanting to kill him and insisting, "We're not friends!", Sean flips out when Raymond breaks his ankle during a power outage, insists on staying with him in the ambulance (to the point where one of the medics assumes they're brothers), and becomes determined to utterly destroy the SACGEN unit for doing this to his best friend.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame