The Death of a Disco Dancer by David Clark

Reviewed by Bridget


Content Ratings based on a 0-5 scale where
0 = no objectionable content and
5 = an excessive or disturbing level of content

Guide to Rating System





Ratings Explanation

Language: References to “Nuts” and “Balls” from the junior high school narrator, Todd Whitman.

Violence: After an explosion in the mine shaft, the recovered miner’s bodies were laid out on the dance floor.  The junior high school P.E. teacher paddles Todd on the first day of  school.

Sexual Content: Todd Whitman has a crush on Jenny Gillette.

Adult Themes:  An allusion to Todd’s grandmother and grandfather nearly ending their marriage, many years prior; forgiveness prevailed.  Todd’s mother is the caregiver for her mother who is suffering from dementia. Todd returns home to be at his mother’s bedside as she lay dying.

Author’s Summary

One night, eleven-year-old Todd Whitman receives a terrifying but hilarious midnight visitor: his cockatoo-plumed, dementia-stricken, John Travolta-smitten Grandma Carter. In constant nocturnal search of the mysterious “Dancer,” Grandma clutches her absurdly precious Saturday Night Fever album cover and giggles her way through the dance steps of her youth.

When forty-something Todd returns home to help his dying mother, he reflects on that pivotal summer of 1981: the unique relationship he developed with his grandmother, the chaos of finding his place in a large Mormon family, the near misses of impressing the one-and-only Jenny Gillette, and the utter social catastrophe of junior high.

Ultimately, despite the ups and downs of life, Todd finds peace and strength through the selfless and dedicated lives of his grandmother and mother.

I love this book!  Clark perfectly captures the torture and hilarity of navigating adolescence and the perpetual change of family ties. Simply beautiful.   I read passages aloud to my husband, Rob.  I read other passages aloud to my children and finally, the bathroom inspection passage, I read aloud to anyone within an audible range, even though I was barely capable of reading, due to uncontrollable laughter.  I enjoyed Clark’s writing style and ability to weave Todd’s experience navigating junior high school with the deeper, beautiful story of his relationship with his mother and grandmother.  I look forward to reading the sequel.

This is my holiday gift of choice for my dear friends and family!

If you want to read an interview with the author, here is the link.


5 Responses to “The Death of a Disco Dancer by David Clark”

  1. a farnsworth Says:

    I read this book and will not give it to my family members. If I were to give this book my grandchildren would think that I approve of the actions and language included in this book, which I do not. While I realize that kids begin to realize their body as it changes, we still do not have to promote the crudeness exhibited in the language of this book. On the recommendations given by both Prof. Cracroft and Bridget I purchased 10 of these books but will be giving them to a used bookstore rather than to my grandchildren. I am very disappointed.

  2. Robin Cash Clark Says:

    Interesting view from a. farnsworth. I had the total opposite reaction. Although there may be some “real life” descriptive adjectives mentioned in the book (and shown in Verharren’s review above) by the main character, the point of the book is about the conversion of a boy into manhood and his absolute respect for women and their role in familiar life. I have read this book a couple of times and find new layers of insight each time I am finished. I have given a copy of the book to each of my children and hope they glean the amazing insights about growing up and respecting the simple, quite dedication of mothers and grandmothers. I would encourage readers to read the interview given by the author in the above link.

  3. K McBrady Says:

    One of the things I love most about this book is its blunt style. It is literature – the words the characters use are not necessarily reflections of the people recommending the book, but reflections of the characters in the book. Yes, there are crude words/phrases that I don’t personally use, but the book wouldn’t be genuine without Todd Whitman’s honest voice – the voice of an 11 year old boy, not that of an adult woman. I applaud Clark for his contribution.

  4. Tyler Prock Says:

    My wife read most of this novel to me while I was driving our family to a Disneyland vacation. This 6-hour drive with 3 kids usually seems endless; however, I found myself wanting to take detours, extending our travel time so we could finish this book. My wife and I were laughing out loud one minute and wiping tears the next. The author continually entertained me by taking me back to my pre-teen years, causing reflection of my own experiences in junior high school. He then brings me back to current times, where the importance of family, sacrifice, and love really come into focus. This book is more than entertaining. It is uplifting and inspirational.

  5. M. Montgomery Says:

    I continue to be surprised by the blindness of certain people and their overwhelming need to see all that is or could potentially be construed as negative – while entirely missing all that is good, wholesome, and heartwarming. Although this novel does contain some very mild language and themes common to nearly all teenagers (see Verhaaren’s review above), this novel is truly about so much more. It is about a young boy delving into manhood and learning just how important and crucial the love, strength, and determination of his mother and other women have been in his life and the influence that they have had on both his temporal and spiritual growth. An amazing novel! I would recommend it, without hesitation, to both family and friends.

Leave a Reply

© 2008-2017 The Literate Mother