Ryan Swinton–Anything for a Laugh

Have you ever known the kid who would do anything to make you laugh?  Tell any joke?  Pull any stunt?  Ryan Swinton is that kid.  For a long time now, Ryan has felt enormous pressure to come up with fantastic new jokes.  He scours the Internet, observes people closely, watches, listens–always on the lookout for new material.  Nothing makes him feel better than eliciting a laugh.  On the flip side, nothing makes him feel worse than getting to the punch line and having no one think it’s funny.

Ryan has known Joe Marma for years–ever since they were toddlers.  He supposes it’s natural that he gravitates toward Joe.  Joe is everything he’s not–take-charge, decisive, tough, ready to make a decision and take the lead.  Ryan would much rather follow along, not ruffle any feathers.  He doesn’t always like the decisions Joe makes–but he knows what Joe would say if he said so:  “Too bad, bud.  Tough.”  It is better, and easier, to just go along.

But over the course of The Eye-Dancers, as Ryan, Joe, Mitchell Brant, and Marc Kuslanski are swept away in a mind-bending adventure, Ryan is forced to deal with situations that, by necessity, force him to make key decisions.  He will not be able to defer to Joe this time.  He has to take the lead, too.  Will he be up for the challenge?

Along the way, Ryan is sure to crack a few jokes, and he’ll do his best, always, to make you laugh.

Joe Marma–All About Action

You don’t want to mess with Joe Marma.  He’s the toughest kid in the seventh grade, and he’s not afraid to show it.  Few things excite and stimulate Joe more than a good fistfight, but as he notes with disappointment when we first meet him in The Eye-Dancers, few people are willing to challenge him anymore, his reputation being what it is.

About a year earlier, in sixth grade, Joe rescued Mitchell Brant from a beating–two kids were banging away at him before Joe stepped in.  Since then, the boys have become good friends.  And when Mitchell confides in Joe about his recurring dreams of the spectral girl with the blue, spinning eyes (whom he refers to as “the ghost girl”), Joe surprises him by saying he’s been having the same dreams!  This is a sobering development for the boys.  What can it mean?  Why does the same little girl haunt both of their dreams?

Joe wishes the mystery could be more like a fight–where one good shot to the jaw can solve the problem.  But it’s going to take a lot more work, and it’s going to cause the boys to confront their deepest insecurities and fears.  For Joe, a big issue is his older brother, Bob.  Bob has it all–movie-star looks, girlfriends to spare, straight A report cards.  And he’s tall–unlike Joe.  Just another reason for the ever-present chip on his shoulder.  People better not underestimate Joe because he’s short.  And they better not poke fun at him.  His temper is never far from the surface.  Never far from erupting.  It’s frustrating being the sibling to the perfect older brother.

But Joe has never backed away from a challenge, and he’s not going to back away from the mysteries of this “ghost girl” or the strange, hypnotic power of her eyes.  He knows the next time he falls asleep, she will be there, in his dreams.  Bring it on.

But there are more pieces to this puzzle, more boys who will be affected by these events.  Ryan Swinton, for one.  He’s been Joe’s friend since they were toddlers.  Ryan–the class clown, the comedian . . .

Mitchell Brant–A Reluctant Hero

At the start of The Eye-Dancers, seventh-grader Mitchell Brant would be quick to tell anyone who’d listen that he is a hero.  But deep down, when being honest with himself, he’d more likely admit he falls far short of what he aspires to be.  The thing with Mitchell is, he’s one of those perpetual storytellers–liars, to call a spade a spade.  He can’t seem to help it.  Maybe it’s because he’s not popular at school or that he becomes tongue-tied around girls.  Whatever the reason, he is quick to invent stories about himself–such as how he ran the mile in four-and-a-half minutes last fall, or threw a baseball ninety-two-miles-per-hour last summer.  Few people believe him anymore–but he just can’t stop himself.  And when people do doubt the truth of his claims, he defends them with tenacity and passion.

Why defend a lie?  As Mitchell points out himself in the opening chapter, he’s not necessarily defending a “lie” per se.  He’s defending what he hopes to be someday, he’s reaching for the stars and trying so hard to grab onto his dreams.  Can’t anyone understand?

Well, maybe a little girl with blue, spinning eyes can–the girl he dreams of three nights in a row.  The girl who haunts his sleep.  Who is she?  What does she want with him?  Mitchell must find out, and when he does, he must confront not only the truth about the girl, but also the truth about himself.  And he won’t be alone.

His best friend, Joe Marma, is going along for the ride, too . . .

A Quick Synopsis

What is The Eye-Dancers about?  Without spoiling the plot or outcome, here is a very general idea. . .


Seventh-grader Mitchell Brant and three of his classmates inexplicably wake up at the back edge of a softball field to the sounds of a game, the cheering of the crowd.  None of them remembers coming here.  And as they soon learn, “here” is like no place they’ve ever seen.  Cars resemble antiques from the 1950s.  There are no cell phones, no PCs.  Even the spelling of words is slightly off.

A compulsive liar, constantly telling fantastic stories to garner attention and approval, Mitchell can only wish this were just one more of his tall tales.  But it isn’t.  It’s all too real.  Together, as they confront unexpected and life-threatening dangers, Mitchell and his friends must overcome their bickering and insecurities to learn what happened, where they are, and how to get back home.

The answers can be found only in the mysterious little girl with the blue, hypnotic eyes.  The one they had each dreamed of three nights in a row before arriving here.  She is their only hope.  And, as they eventually discover, they are her only hope.

And time is running out.


Hopefully you will find that intriguing!  But who is Mitchell Brant, really, the book’s main character?  And who are the classmates mentioned here?  They, too, are very important characters in The Eye-Dancers:  Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski.   Please take a look at their character profiles to get a better feel for who they are and what they’re all about.


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