Cover image for Dunk
Lubar, David.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Clarion Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
249 pages ; 24 cm
While hoping to work as the clown in an amusement park dunk tank on the New Jersey shore the summer before his junior year in high school, Chad faces his best friend's serious illness, hassles with police, and the girl that got away.
Reading Level:
520 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 3.8 9.0 64307.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.7 15 Quiz: 32567 Guided reading level: NR.
Electronic Access:
Publisher description
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



To the Bozo, the clown who sits inside the cage above the dunk tank, everyone is a "mark." Once he has zeroed in on his victim, the Bozo comes up with the perfect wisecrack--something funny enough to make people stop and listen, and cruel enough to hook the mark. Now the mark is bent on revenge, and he'll buy however many balls he needs to hit the target and see the Bozo plunge into the water. It's a game that fascinates Chad, who lives on the Jersey shore, where the boardwalk turns into an amusement park every summer. He wishes he could shout at the world from the safety of a cage--his dad ran out on him and his mom, and now everyone seems convinced that Chad will wind up a loser, too. He's determined to get a job playing the Bozo, something he knows he'd be good at. Suddenly, Chad finds himself thrown into a strange and twisted world, where humor has far more power than he ever imagined.

With a crackling plot and smart, funny dialogue, Dunk pulls readers along on a journey that exposes a universal truth: We all need to laugh.

Author Notes

David Lubar grew up in New Jersey and now lives next door in Pennsylvania. Armed with a degree in philosophy from Rutgers University and no marketable job skills, he spent several years as a starving writer before accidentally discovering that he knew how to program computers. He is now a full-time writer and the author of eleven books for teens and young readers, including Dunk (Clarion Books), Flip (Tor), and Wizards of the Game (Philomel). David Lubar lives with his wife; they have one highly intelligent daughter and three idiosyncratic cats.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 8-12. Sitting over a tub of dirty water, the Bozo taunts the crowd until some poor fool forks over enough money to finally dunk him. The Bozo is amazing and powerful--and Chad wants to be that Bozo. Full of anger at a father who left him, a mother who works too much, adults who think he is a loser, and the autoimmune disease that is killing his best friend, Chad is sure he could be the perfect Bozo. And master the craft he does, only to find it more useful in real life than in the tank. Chad is the prototype of the hard-luck teen whom police mistake for a petty criminal, teachers think is lazy, and who never gets the girl. The Bozo, too, is classic: the bitter loner who is slowly turning his life around. With painful truth, Lubar has created complex, difficult to understand characters that seem straight from real life. Only the "happy" ending concedes to formula. --Frances Bradburn

Publisher's Weekly Review

The slightly tawdry world of boardwalk arcades along the New Jersey shore is just one of the attractions of Lubar's (Hidden Talents) engrossing novel. From the first moment soon-to-be-11th-grader Chad hears the boardwalk clown hurling insults ("His voice ripped the air like a chain saw," the novel begins), the teen is mesmerized. The "bozo," whose witty barbs lure passersby to try and drop him into a water tank, represents all that Chad is not: "Nobody ignored him. Nobody looked down on him or told him he was a loser." The boy adds working as a bozo to his list of goals-along with seeing a certain girl again-for what he hopes will be "the greatest summer of his life." But plans go awry when a rival beats him to the romance punch, his best friend is struck with a life-threatening illness, and Chad has run-ins not only with the police but also with the bozo himself, a troubled man who sublets a room in Chad's house. As Chad surmounts each challenge, he shakes off the shadow of his deadbeat absent father and learns the difference between "a laugh that can cut you up worse than a knife" and laughter that heals. Lubar ably charts a watershed summer between boyhood and manhood; the boardwalk bozo serves as a deft metaphor for the power and control for which adolescents hunger. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-10-Dunk grips readers from the very first sentence and doesn't let go until the last. The summer crowd hasn't quite arrived on the boardwalk in a Jersey shore town when Chad becomes entranced by the Bozo-the clown in the dunk tank-whose voice and comments are as irritating as nails on a chalkboard. It occurs to him that if he can become a Bozo, then he can take out his anger on people who have made him miserable, such as his deadbeat dad and his teachers. As he learns the craft, he gains new respect for clever Bozos who quickly choose a "mark" from people passing on the boardwalk, hook them with a wisecrack that's prickly enough to make them want to dunk him, and then keep the sarcasm going. Although Chad thinks he'll instantly ace the technique, he grudgingly realizes that it is an art. When his best friend becomes seriously ill, he learns that the softer side of humor is as vitally important as the more vengeful barbs. Plot clearly delineates not only self-understanding, but also peer pressure, family conflict, and first romance through the mechanism of Chad's summer adventures. The story line shows the teen's quandary, but does not become stereotypical; few kids want a summer job as a boardwalk Bozo to resolve their conflicts. The author creates immediacy through the protagonist's very typical problems; he wants to find romance, to thwart a troublemaker, and to help his friend. Similar to heroes in stories by Chris Crutcher, Chad learns valuable life lessons in a thoroughly enjoyable and convincing way.-Susan Cooley, Tower Hill School, Wilmington, DE (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1 His voice ripped the air like a chain saw. The harsh cry sliced straight through my guts the first time I heard it. The sound cut deep, but the words cut deeper. He shredded any fool who wandered near the cage. He drove people wild. He drove them crazy. Best of all, he drove them to blow wads of cash for a chance to plunge his sorry butt into a tank of slimy water. This was just about the coolest thing I'd ever seen. Which made it that much more amazing, since I lived in one of the coolest places on the planet and I'd seen some of the freakiest things man or nature had ever created. I was on my way down the boardwalk to get a slice of pizza at Salvatore's. Today was the start of the tourist season. The crowds were thin because the ocean water was still chilly. That wouldn't last. In a few weeks the place would be mobbed. It would stay that way until the end of summer-- wall-to-wall tourists frantically packing as much activity as possible into their vacation at the Jersey shore. I hoped someone special would also return. But if I thought about her too much right now, I knew I'd go crazy. Excerpted from Dunk by David Lubar All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.