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106 pages 3 hours read

Gordon Korman

Slacker

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2016

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Gordon Korman’s Slacker is a 2016 middle-grade novel following the struggles of slacker-turned-club-president Cameron Boxer after he accidentally causes the fire department to break into his smoking house. Slacker explores themes of community, cooperation, and self-fulfillment as Cameron navigates his unintentional new life as a leader of his peers. Korman wrote his first book when he was in ninth grade. As of 2022, Korman has written 100 novels for children and young teen audiences. In 2019, Korman published a sequel to Slacker called Level 13, which follows Slacker’s protagonist, Cameron Boxer, through another adventure. This study guide follows the 2017 Scholastic paperback edition of the book.

Plot Summary

Cameron Boxer is an eighth-grader whose only hobby is playing video games. He is so invested in doing nothing but video games that he nearly allows his house to burn down while engrossed in digital battle with his nemesis, a player named Evil McKillPeople. Cam’s parents are so angry that they set an ultimatum for Cam: get involved in a school activity or lose his gaming console. Cam is dedicated to preserving his slacker lifestyle, so with his friends Chuck and Pavel he creates the Positive Action Group—a fake school club that Cam can tell his parents he’s the president of. To make it look official, Pavel hacks into the school website and creates a web page for the club, listing Cam as the president.

A fellow eighth-grader, Daphne Leibowitz, discovers the club page. Daphne is disenchanted by the state of Sycamore, upset that a mall has displaced local wildlife and drained business from the town’s main street. Daphne is particularly worried about an elderly beaver, Elvis, who has been left behind by his fellow beavers after their habitat was destroyed by the mall. Elvis has become a nuisance to the town because he chews on cables and fences. Daphne believes nobody cares anymore. While browsing the school website, she comes across the page for the Positive Action Group. Feeling hopeful about her peers, Daphne decides to track down Cameron Boxer because the website link to contact him is broken. Daphne goes to Cam’s house to ask about the P.A.G.  She’s adamant about joining the P.A.G. and starting a project to save Elvis. Cam takes Daphne’s number, promising to call her when the P.A.G. has its first meeting, but he throws it away once she leaves.

When time passes without a P.A.G. meeting, Daphne seeks help from student counselor, Mr. Fanshaw. Mr. Fanshaw vows to take care of it, and he is impressed that one of the middle school’s eighth-graders is responsible for such a club. Mr. Fanshaw believes Sycamore needs a group like this, especially because of the town’s struggling economy and the impending destruction of the town’s freeway exit. After several failed attempts to track down Cam, Mr. Fanshaw finally corners Cam in the boys’ room and declares himself faculty advisor to the club. For several days, Cam manages to avoid calling a P.A.G. meeting despite suspicions from his parents, his sister Melody, and Mr. Fanshaw. Eventually, Cam is forced to call the first meeting, where Mr. Fanshaw announces the P.A.G.’s first project will be helping weed the senior citizens’ gardening project.  

The gardening project goes well, and several members of the P.A.G. begin enjoying the work, including a football player named String, who’s only joined to get extra credit and end his academic probation, and Cam’s good friend Chuck. Mr. Fanshaw has invited a local reporter, Audra Klincker, to write a story about the club. Soon, Elvis shows up, and a senior citizen swings a rake at the beaver to scare him off. Upset at Elvis’s treatment, Daphne tackles the man, leading Audra Klincker to become skeptical about the club.

Cam sneaks away to play video games on his phone and notices water trickling down the steps of a local apartment complex. He investigates and finds the water coming from an apartment. He knocks, but there’s no answer, so he fetches the rest of the club for help. They break into the apartment and find an old woman has slipped and hit her head. Cameron and the P.A.G. are hailed as heroes, which Audra Klincker writes about in her story.

The P.A.G. explodes with membership, steadily growing with each new meeting and each newspaper writeup. Someone hijacks the P.A.G. website to schedule meetings and themed days despite Cam trying to avoid involvement in the P.A.G. Cam believes Pavel is posting to the website, but Pavel denies it, swearing loyalty to his friend. Eventually, the high school community service club, Friends of Fuzzy, catches wind of the P.A.G.’s popularity and the president, Jennifer Del Rio, confronts Cam about stopping it. Cam agrees with Jennifer, but he’s lost control of the P.A.G., which continues to do good deeds around Sycamore, including the construction of a beaver habitat for Elvis, who has been missing since the gardening incident.

The Friends of Fuzzy begin to sabotage P.A.G. projects, tanking their reputation to the point that the middle school principal puts a stop to the P.A.G. after an altercation between the P.A.G. and the Friends of Fuzzy at the YMCA. While Cam is happy to be rid of the P.A.G., his peers tell him how much the organization meant to them.

Though the P.A.G. is shut down, someone begins posting to the website again, which lands Cam in trouble with the principal. Cam confronts Pavel again, believing him to be the culprit. Pavel denies it, and the boys part ways with a damaged friendship. When Cam returns to video games, he finds it isn’t fun without his friends. At the height of a possible victory against Evil McKillPeople, Cam quits the game because his heart isn’t in it. He decides to come clean to his parents about the origins of the P.A.G., but they are too distracted by the impending destruction of the freeway exit, which will affect their business.

Cam borrows a sheet of paper from Melody so he can write a letter to his parents. He finds the login information to the P.A.G. webpage in her room and realizes Melody was behind the mysterious posting. He goes to confront Melody at her friend’s house, where he finds her using the same voice synthesizer that Evil McKillPeople uses. Cam gets angry at Melody about the webpage and being Evil McKillPeople, but Melody explains that she feels like a second-class citizen in their home. She hates seeing Cam get away with everything while hogging the video games constantly. She reminds Cam of the power she gave him by helping the P.A.G. along.

Cam and Melody decide to use this power to reunite the P.A.G. for one more mission: save Sycamore’s freeway ramp from destruction. Cam announces the plan to the P.A.G., who set out to assemble at the ramp on Saturday morning. The Friends of Fuzzy show up in their cars, determined to beat the P.A.G. to the ramp, but one of them hits Elvis with a car on the way. The P.A.G. and Friends of Fuzzy race through the forest, searching for Elvis to save him before the other group can. Daphne and Jennifer grab Elvis at the same time and fight over him. Daphne realizes Elvis is hurt, but Jennifer won’t let go until she can take Elvis to Audra Klincker and get the publicity for Friends of Fuzzy. Daphne hands Elvis over, afraid to hurt him more.

When the P.A.G. and Friends of Fuzzy arrive at the freeway ramp, they find all the adults in town are already gathered there to protest. The groups join their parents, and the entire community stands against the bulldozers. The demolition crew eventually leaves, and the community celebrates victory. Cam makes up with Chuck and Pavel. Jennifer, who has held onto Elvis the entire time, takes him to a vet.

Elvis gets cleared medically and introduced to his habitat built by the P.A.G. The P.A.G. gets reinstated, with Cam serving as the president again. The freeway ramp gets the repair job it needed. Cam chooses Melody as his partner for a gaming competition, deciding that his team is stronger with Evil McKillPeople. 

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