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King of the Screwups by K.L. Going

King of the Screwups
y K.L. Going

Publishing Information: Houghton Mifflin: Boston, Mass., 2009
ISBN: 9780152062583 / 9780547331669 (PB)
: 310 p.
Ages: 12 & Up

Liam Geller can't help being Mr. Popularity, even when he tries not to be. No matter what he does, he manages to screw up in the eyes of his father.

After getting in trouble yet again, popular high school senior Liam, who never seems to live up to his wealthy father's expectations, is sent to live in a trailer park with his gay "glam-rocker" uncle.

Book Talk:
1. Another party, another half-naked girl, another chewing out by his father.

Liam Geller is used to all of this.

He’s been a screw-up all his life, according to dear old dad. He can’t do anything right. His grades are horrible. He’s been kicked off the team. He regularly gets drunk and parties all night long, even though he knows it will disappoint his father.

However, this time, with this half-naked girl, on this father’s desk, he’s gone too far.

This time he gets kicked out. The choice is go live with his father's parents, who live in Nevada and hate him completely, or his Uncle Pete, a gay glam-rocker who lives in a trailer park and hasn't spoken to the family in years.

So, Li goes to live with Pete, where he's determined to completely screwup this time, by being everything that he's not.  He's always been popular, but this time he'll screw that up by hanging out with the nerds. He's not a nerd, but he'll screw that up by studying and joining the AV club.  He's never been good at anything, but he'll screw that up by becoming great at something.
The only problem now is that he screws up screwing up!
(Book Talks by The Library Lady -

2. High school senior Liam has got it all. His dad's a CEO and his mom's an ex-runway model. A real Mr Popularity, Liam is gorgeous, talented, excels at sports, dates the most beautiful girls, and has impeccable fashion sense. Everything is great—except Liam is a screwup!

Whether it is his lack-luster grades or other perceived transgressions, Liam constantly ticks off his rigidly strict dad. When Liam is found drunk on his dad's desk with a partially-clothed young lady, his dad kicks him out of the house. Against his dad's homophobic wishes, Liam finds refuge with his uncle—Aunt Pete. Pete is a gay, cross-dressing glam rocker DJ living in a trailer. Not thrilled at first to have Liam invading his space, Pete makes a deal. If Liam refrains from commenting on Pete's large collection of animal print and neon-colored spandex pants, he'll make room for Liam's carefully selected wardrobe.

A new school gives Liam an opportunity to prove himself to his dad. Figuring that “clothes make the man,” he dresses like a nerd, joins the AV club, and tries not to be popular. But try as he might, he can’t help screwing this up as well!
(Mackin Book Talk! -

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Fathers and Sons

Awards & Reviews:
Barnes & Nobles Best Teen Books, 2009
Georgia Peach Award Nominee, 2011
Kentucky Bluegrass Award Nominee, 2011
Kirkus Best Young Adult books, 2009
Missouri Gateway Readers Award Nominee, 2012
Rainbow Books List from the American Library Association Rainbow Project, 2010
South Carolina YA Book Award Nominee, 2012
Texas Tayshas Reading List, 2011

Booklist, April 15, 2009
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July 1, 2009
Horn Book
, October, 1, 2009
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2009
New York Times Book Review, July 12, 2009
Publishers Weekly, February 9, 2009 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, April 1, 2009 (Starred Review)
Teacher Librarian, October 1, 2009
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, June 1, 2009

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. What makes Liam so likeable and popular, even when he tries to blend in with everyone else?
  2. Why does Darla dislike Liam so intensely?
  3. In what ways is emotional abuse similar to physical abuse? In what ways is it different? Which type of abuse do you think is more damaging and why?
  4. Explain how Liam’s perception of Pete changes throughout the book.
  5. Why do Sarah and “Aunt” Pete get along? Why does Allan disapprove of Pete? How does Sarah’s relationship with Pete affect her marriage to Allan?
  6. Though the book appears to be about how much Liam disappoints his father, Liam is also disappointed by his father many times. Discuss which event you think was the most important to the novel and why.
  7. How does Liam’s relationship with his parents change after he moves in with Pete?

Related Websites:
Author's Website -
Emotional Abuse Information from the American Humane Association -
Fashion & Style -
Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network –
National Youth Advocacy Coalition -

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Other Books by the Author:
Fat Kid Rules the World
, 2003
The Liberation of Gabriel King, 2005
Saint Iggy, 2006
The Garden of Eve, 2007

About the Author:
K. L. Going lives in Glen Spey, NY. Since graduating college she has worked as an adult literacy tutor, a ticket agent for an airline, a front desk clerk at a resort hotel, as an assistant to two agents at a Manhattan Literary agency, and a manager of an independent bookstore.

Currently, she is writing from home full time.

She has lived in Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and New York City.

She also has a very unsettling obsession with Ketchup.

For more information, visit her website:

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair