The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez


      One of the most well-known sayings is “Life is like a Roller Coaster.” There are ups and downs, the worst and the best.

      One of the most well-known sayings is “Life is like a Roller Coaster.” There are ups and downs, the worst and the best. There are disappointments, then there are victories, and sometimes, there are both. Most of the time, there are things that none of us understand, yet at the same time, we do. That’s why Peter Johnson’s The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez is such a relatable novel and touches readers, making them feel sad yet joyful at the same time.

       Benny Alvarez is a pessimistic boy who is trying to survive the void that is seventh grade. He has a father even more cynical than him, a brother who’s playful, tough, and annoying, a sister who’s as pure as a crystal lake glistening in the sun, and a mother who is the exact opposite of him. His friends and he enjoy looking up words in a thesaurus and competing with each other to see who can find the best word. With a grandfather who’s already gone through two strokes and a know-it-all enemy and her army of girls, he doesn’t know where his life is going. In this novel about acceptance, he has to decide- is the glass half empty or half full

           The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez is clearly a realistic fiction novel. There are not any elements of fantasy, for it could almost be considered a true story. People who only like fantasy/science fiction books will not enjoy this book. For someone who will be fine with any genre or realistic fiction however, this is astounding novel. Peter Johnson has a story incorporated with the humor and quirk of a seventh grader’s life with the difficulties and adversities of life in general. Because Benny Alvarez (the main character who the book’s point of view is from) is a pessimist, an adolescent, and a boy, a lot of the jocularity of the novel comes from just his point of view. Johnson has made it so that Benny isn’t a humorous character, yet he makes the reader burst out laughing. Other characters, such as Benny’s younger brother, father, grandfather, and sister’s boyfriend, bring comedy into the story just because of the type of people they are; sometimes annoying, sometimes cynical, and often just plain hilarious. However, even with the element that keeps you bright, upbeat, and chuckling, there is also a deepness that inhabits the book. In the novel, each character seems to have his/ her own story relating to love and loss. It could even be called inspirational. Serious concepts, such as death, love, friendships, and enemies are scattered throughout the novel.

        In conclusion, The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez by Peter Johnson is a book for adolescents of both genders. It is for ages 10-14, and people who are looking for a bit of comedy, as well as a bit of seriousness. And, in the end, the novel will reach deep within you and soften your heart.