AUTHOR: César Mallorquí
GENRE: Young adult
READER’S NAME: Andrea Shah
Las fabulosas aventuras del Profesor Furia y Mr. Cristal (The Fabulous Adventures of Professor Fury and Mr. Glass) tells the intertwined stories of four men at the Colegio Anne Frank in Madrid. Three of them are pupils, and the fourth is a literature teacher.
The teacher, Julián, is a functional alcoholic, embittered by the accidental death of his beloved son, the subsequent breakup of his marriage, and his failure as a poet. In his class is Daniel, a fourteen-year-old who blends easily into the woodwork. When Daniel writes an unusual paper for his literature class, Julian investigates him further and finds out that he is exceptionally bright and empathetic. Meanwhile, in a parallel strand of the story, Daniel has figured out that Julián is alcoholic and in need of a friend, and tries to build a relationship with him accordingly.
The remaining two characters who serve as a catalyst for the story’s events are Raúl and Jorge. Raúl is polite, intelligent, and widely regarded as the best student at the Colegio Anne Frank. However, Raúl has been pushed to this level of achievement by his father, a cold and domineering military officer; he suffers from recurring nightmares starring a dangerous predator. He has few friends, but he is close to Jorge, a classmate who is determined to follow in the footsteps of his violent, ultra-right-wing older brother.
The novel follows the lives of these four as Daniel and Julián build a tentative friendship and learn more about one another. Meanwhile, Raúl endures a series of punishments at the hands of his father when he gets a failing grade on a paper in Julián’s class for having refused to write about a novel by a gay author. Likewise, Jorge breaks down after his admired older brother is first imprisoned, then murdered in jail. Raúl begins to plot an attack on the school, blaming Julián for all of his woes.
The climax of the story is the attack carried out by a sleepless, hallucinating Raúl and his friends on the morning the school reopens after winter recess. All four of the main characters are involved, and the final scenes are heartrending.
The book has a strong pair of protagonists in Daniel and Julián. Young readers will find the precocious Daniel to be intriguing and relatable, and his friendship with Julián is realistic and moving. The title of the novel refers to a comic strip drawn by Daniel, a gifted artist. Profesor Furia (Professor Fury) is Julián, whose grouchiness is itself a superpower, and his invisible sidekick is Mr. Cristal (Mr. Glass), a cartoon version of Daniel.
In addition to its two heroes, the book also does a good job garnering sympathy for Raúl, whose violent acts are shown to be the product of an abusive household, and for the third participant in the attack, a quiet boy named Guillermo, who is overwhelmed by peer pressure.
The book’s cover copy suggests a parallel to the Columbine shooting, and it succeeds in depicting how such a thing might occur in a completely different cultural context. Readers will learn about some of the challenges facing contemporary Spanish culture today. The book’s language is clear and easy to understand, without being overly simplistic. Overall, Mallorquí’s novel offers an interesting twist on a topic that will capture the attention of adolescent readers in the United States.