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Literature / Dunk

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"I wanted to make the marks dance like puppets on a string. I wanted to shout and scream at the world from the safety of a cage. I wanted to be the Bozo."

Dunk is a 2002 novel written by David Lubar.

Chad is your average teen living with his caring mother Annie and athletic Best Friend Jason at the Jersey shore. His summer break is starting out mostly the same way, until he finds something scattered amongst the games: A wisecracking bozo who roasts anyone so that they can dunk him. He idols this bozo and wants to be one himself. Until he finds out who the bozo is.

And this is only the first part. During this summer, he's framed, reminded of his terrible dad, and much more. All of this makes him realize that laughter is much more than a reaction.

This book provides examples of:

  • Archnemesis Dad: Downplayed. Chad's dad isn't the antagonist of the book, and there certainly isn't any Boss Fight, but Chad still has a clear dislike for his dad due to how he was a thief and that he abandoned him.
  • Befriending the Enemy: Jason's mom is introduced as caring towards Jason, but hostile towards Chad since she thought he supplied him with drugs. After Malcolm starts visiting Jason, he and Chad start performing comedy skits she finds funny, and eventually starts to calm down with Chad.
  • Broken Pedestal: Chad initially loves the bozo, finding him hilarious. Later in the book, a man in a turtleneck shirt doesn't help Chad with the police. He finds out during his second bozo viewing they're the same person.
    Chad (narration): Something about the bozo caught my eye. For a moment, as I watched, it didn't really sink in. Why did he look so familiar? Then I knew the answer. And the answer really pissed me off.
  • Bystander Syndrome: In chapter 5, a man in a turtleneck sweater (later revealed to be Malcolm) watches as Chad is interrogated by the cops because they thought he stole sunglasses, because as far as he was concerned it was just a scene that he had the pleasure of watching. The other nameless bystanders also fall into this trope, as they all just thought "Glad it's not me!"
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Chad isn't able to confess his love to Gwen due to being too shy and not wanting to be a pathetic lovesick puppy, which eventually ends up with Gwen going out with Anthony. He's able to confess his love by the end of the book, fortunately.
  • Cheer Them Up with Laughter: Chad brings some comedy films to Jason's hospital room to make him laugh during his bad situation. The laughter is so helpful that it actually cures Jason's autoimmune disease, making him healthy again.
  • Cop Hater: Chad doesn't like officers Costas and Manetti. Justified, since the cops always assume he's up to no good.
  • Definitely Just a Cold: When Jason first starts feeling sick, he initially brushes it off as regular sickness. Later, he's diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Happens in chapter 27 to Chad because Anthony stole Gwen from him, so now he can’t get up from the couch and his memories are literally gray and conversations become foggy. Becomes Averted in chapter 30 when Chad decides to ignore his sadness and visit Jason at the hospital.
    Chad (narration): Someone had drilled a large hole through ever vital part of my body. All spirit, all life, had drained out, leaving a shell that might have blown away if I'd stepped from the house. There was no danger of that. My universe shrank to the size of the couch.''
  • Disappeared Dad: Chad’s dad never makes any physical appearances, just mere mentions and quotes of him in Chad’s head. He left because he only wanted it to be him and Chad’s mom.
  • Dissonant Serenity: In chapter 5, when Chad is getting interrogated by the cops because he was mistaken for a thief, a person in a turtle-neck sweater (later revealed to be Malcolm) simply watches the scene like it’s a television show.
  • The Dreaded: To Chad, it's his dad, and earlier in Malcolm's introduction it was him.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Chad is framed for crimes three times, has the girl of his dreams taken away by a complete douche and undergoes severe depression And Jason must endure a chronic-progressive autoimmune disorder for most of Summer. They all get their happy endings though; Chad even becomes Gwen's girlfriend.
  • Frame-Up: 3 times.
  • A Friend in Need: When Jason gets diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease, Chad takes it upon himself to do everything he possibly can, even with Jason's mom framing him for supplying him and getting angrier every time he shows up. Jason gets healed with the power of laughter.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Stinger, a dude from Chad's school, can apparently throw blindfolded and still hit a target. This especially comes into play when he visits the dunk tank, dunking the poor bozo so much he can barely speak.
  • Lean and Mean: Downplayed with Malcolm. He has "the kind of thin that comes from skipping meals" and has some unlikable traits, but isn't downright evil.
  • Lovable Jock: Jason is, of course.
  • Love Confession: During chapter 37, when Chad decides he’s been waiting long enough and calls Gwen over so he can confess… during his first time as a dunk tank bozo, in front of an entire crowd.
  • Mama Bear: Downplayed. Jason's mom wouldn't kill anyone, but she'd sure as heck get hostile if you were to worsen his conditions while being sick (she even called Chad a bastard just for making Jason cough).
  • Mistaken for Evidence: In chapter 34, while the police are searching Chad's house, they find money he was making while working and mistake it for drug money.
  • Mistaken for Junkie: Chad is mistaken for one twice. Jason is mistaken for one in chapter 19.
  • Mistaken for Thief: In chapter 5, Chad gets accused of stealing sunglasses.
    Chad (narration): Thieves? No. There was just one thief. I had nothing to do with this. I didn't even want sunglasses.
  • Oh, Crap!: Chad's reaction to getting accused of being a druggie and getting arrested in chapter 19, or just about any time he's framed.
  • Parental Abandonment: Chad's dad left, since he didn't want a child in the picture.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Chad and Ellie are pretty good friends, but they don't have romantic interest in each-other.
  • Pretending to Be One's Own Relative: Malcolm pretends to be Chad's father in order to bail him out of jail.
  • Pursue the Dream Job: Inverted the first time it's used. At the beginning of the book, Chad shows interest in being bozo at the dunk tank. Chad signs up for a job at the dunk tank as a bozo, but since he wasn't specific with what he wanted, he ended up having to pick up the balls, which made him physically hurt. Though he does get the bozo job by the end of the book.
  • Roommate Drama: Chad and Malcolm tend to argue sometimes, at one point they even fight!
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: The Royal Cabana sells unlicensed and unfaithful shirts of Mickey Mouse, Peanuts and Garfield.
    Jason: Hey, shouldn't there be like a trademark or a copyright or something? I don't think Disney gave anyone permission to show Mickey being so aggressive with an ax.
  • Shout-Out: Plenty of them, such as Patch Adams and Of Mice and Men.
  • Struggling Single Mother: Chad’s mom had a husband who was a thief and left due to Chad coming along, and she’s so overworked that she can pass off for 40, and she’s 32. All that and she’s still in school. Of course, she gets her well-deserved happy ending at the end of the book when she graduates.
  • Surprise Car Crash: Before the events of Dunk, Malcolm had a wife and a son. It was good weather. He wasn't drunk. But a tire from the car in front of him went out of control. 8 cars were involved in the crash, but two people died.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Chad's mom gave birth to Chad at the age of 17.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Everyone thinks Anthony is this perfect angel, when Chad knows he’s a druggie who steals. It’s hinted he gets arrested, though.
  • Wham Line: In chapter 27, during the fight between Chad and Malcolm, Malcolm puts sense into Chad by saying something that steals Chad’s words. “I had a wife. I had a son. They’re dead”.

Life wasn't a passing mark you had to hook or lose forever.