Hands Up

by Paul Magrs

Paul Magrs' Hands Up

Book review by Rosalyne Bowmile

Ages 10+

Beware of what lies behind hidden doors

Jason like most thirteen year old boys has his sights set on school, friends, parties, but most of all girls. His first crush Lisa Turmoil, his much older brother’s hair stylist, almost brings him to his knees when she calls him “love.”

The last thing Jason’s thinking about is his future, let alone his destiny. He‘s sure of one thing, what he doesn’t want, anything to do with technology. Just the thought of using a computer sends shivers rippling through his body.

Book review - Hands Up

Jason’s family life in Hands Up is anything but harmonious. He lives with his parents, his father a cantankerous washed up puppeteer, a bitter man, who twenty years ago had a short rise to fame, all because of his foul mouthed bat glove puppet named Tolstoy, who now resides locked away in the attic. Since his descent from stardom, his moodiness has only gotten worse.

Jason's mother is a flighty woman, whose sole purpose in life is to emulate the celebrities she adores on television, from cooking their foods, to styling herself in the newest fashions. She is meek and without backbone, constantly seeking support from others, whether it is from Jason or his brother Barry.

Barry, unlike the rest of the family, is successful, a well loved puppeteer with his sidekick Nixon, a penguin glove puppet. He is the opposite to his father, well recognized worldwide, flamboyant, a people person who loves the camera and media attention, strutting around like a peacock.

Jason, the most normal out of this nutty bunch, is somewhat insecure and quiet, respectful and obedient. He’d never think of arguing or disagreeing with his father, soaking up his every word. “I am used to the idea of being useless. That’s what my dad tells me I am. Whatever my parents were going to get me for Christmas wouldn’t help me. I’m bound to be useless all my life.”

Jason’s destiny is decided, not by him, but his father. He is to become the next great puppeteer. At first Jason muddles with the idea, even thinks about the kind of animal he’d like as a glove puppet, but his happy thoughts cloud over with concern, his fear escalates the closer he and his father get to the marionette emporium. Jason begins to question his own abilities, like with the computer; what if he fails, embarrasses himself or worse his father.

back cover of Paul Magr's 'Hands Up'

Jason and his father never make it to the marionette emporium, his father sidetracked by a display window featuring 50 years of puppet nostalgia. It is here Jason witnesses what he’s secretly thought for years--his father is crackers, insane--and stares in helpless disbelief as his father dives off the deep end.

Returning home from the police station, Jason begins to hear a voice, at first soft and raspy, coming from the attic. “I am your destiny. You’re my new master.” Tolstoy, his father’s glove puppet has woken from his twenty year nap and is now ready to make his comeback. Jason has no idea what awaits him in the attic, and like opening Pandora’s Box is exposed to a world of trouble.

Book review - Hands Up

Families come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own secrets hidden behind closed doors. Hands Up is packed with surprises, a funny book that’s made my own family look mild and tame in comparison. As an artist and mother of two teenage boys, I too live in a noisy and often times crazy household, but nothing compares to Jason’s.

What surprised me most about Hands Up was Jason’s willingness to accept his father’s cruelty and internalize his battering of negativity and shortcomings. I found myself shouting out to Jason to break free, fight back, and most of all wanted to reassure him that he wasn’t useless. He too could accomplish anything he set his mind to do, not to fear the unexpected, but strive for the top, and never allow someone to dictate your destiny.

I was put off with the mother, yes a comedic character, but a spineless jellyfish, who allowed her husband to rule the roost and verbally abuse her and her son. To me, she was a coward, one who ran away from life and hid behind the facade of television. Rarely did she praise her son, or encourage him, terrified to go against anything her husband had to say. It has always been of utmost importance for my husband and I to encourage our children. We have guided them, given them freedom of choice to choose what they want to do and who they will become, but most of all give them the confidence to succeed.

Overall a very enjoyable read, one that I have now read twice, and is part of my book collection. I would recommend Hands Up to children ages 10+.

Sidebar note: Paul Magrs is also an adult novelist. He is best known for his novels in the Dr. Who series (like Sick Building), and Brenda and Effie Mysteries (like Never the Bride).

Read more of Rosalyne's children's book reviews.


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