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Slider by Pete Hautman is a middle grade novel about competitive eating vying with "family expectations" as the blurb puts it. Those family expectations mean caring for a younger brother who happens to be severely autistic.
The book opens innocently enough with David proud of his abilities to eat large amounts of food quickly and with this fascination (reverence) for competitive eaters. His mother seems rather nonplussed by it and even jokingly encourages him to practice his craft.
David in one of his moments of thinking about competitive eating contests, sees a half eaten hot dog for sale on this book's fictional eBay. He decides to bid on it — using his mother's credit card. He also sets it up to autobid to a certain max price and screws up. He ends up charging a HUGE amount to her card for a partially eaten hot dog.
Things that astonish me about this book's set up:
But the thing that bothered me the most was a throw away detail. It's the name of the autistic brother — Mal. As in unpleasant. As in faulty. As in improper. As in inadequate.
Mal is there to provide a distraction for David to make a mistake with his online bidding. Mal is there to make the mother too harried to notice how untrustworthy David is. Mal is there to ultimately make David feel good about himself when everything works out for the best. Basically, Mal is a plot device.