Summary: Lucas is determined to change his nerdy reputation when he switches schools. Going from brainiac to popular proves to be pretty easy though if he’s willing to make a few bold moves on the 121 Express bus. His efforts quickly pay off, but the pranks on the bus become more and more outrageous – opening the emergency window, dumping yogurt on another car’s windshield, throwing objects at pedestrians – until the bus driver himself has a nervous breakdown. When one of Lucas’ other friends is about to be the victim of the next prank, it is up to him to stand up for what’s right.
Number of Pages: 106
Age Range: 13-15
Review: An intense, brief read, 121 Express by Monique Polak follows one teen’s ascendency to popularity on the daily express bus in Ville St. Laurent, Quebec. This is one of those books that tells a story you can’t look away from, even though you are sure it’s going to end in disaster. 121 Express will easily hook reluctant readers as the hijinks of the students grow in intensity until a student’s life is in danger.
The pranks with Sandeep turned my stomach. I was on pins and needles wondering if Lucas was going to step up and prevent the horrible thing they were planning to do to him. It was quite the nail-biting read in that respect.
While I enjoyed this exploration of peer dynamics, I was a bit confused by the ending though with the letter from The Hot Dog Haven. Not sure if it was meant to set up a sequel or to let the reader know the students had not changed much after all, but merely moved their bad behaviour somewhere else. It’s not a neat or moral based ending, but perhaps it is more truthful instead.
“As the bus turned onto Côte-Vertu Boulevard, I remembered our science teacher said we’d be studying Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection this year. She told us how Darwin believed only the fittest creatures survive.
Darwin was onto something. A kid’s got to be fit to survive the 121 Express.” – Lucas from 121 Express by Monique Polak, pages 7-8