Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I've been trying a different approach to book reviewing, which is to discuss only those books I have positive things to say about—ergo, the long stretches of silence.

It's not as though I haven't been reading or doing anything interesting; I've been trying to be nice. And, frankly, it's killing me. I'm a person with strong convictions. Strong doesn't mix with nice, which has always felt fairly gutless, even if it's for a good cause.

But who am I kidding? I read with undiluted passion, eager to find rare gems, disappointed when the stories fall short, and a muttering hot mess when my favorites don't get the recognition they deserve. I don't want to be this picky. In fact, I long for the days of pre-educated reading when I could get lost in a story and simply enjoy it without noticing moments of clumsy craft.

I wondered. Could I revert to those days? Could I randomly sift through the bookshelves and see what appealed to me, just like a regular person?

Yes I could. And this is what I found:

I'm not sure what drew me to this book. It certainly wasn't the fact that the author, Mark Haddon, wrote THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME...because I detested that book.

It wasn't for the blurbs. (There were none.)

Or the blog buzz. (The book was originally published in 1992 under the title GRIDZBI SPUDVETCH! and revised/released again in 2009)

Or the cover. (It's orange, with a rocket. Big whoop.)

What grabbed my attention was the immediate engagement of Haddon's writing on the first page—his clipped, breezy style and unpretentious humor. Nothing about this book is striving for higher ground. It is what it is.

And here's what it's about: Two boys overhear their teachers talking in a strange language and decide to investigate. Before they know it, the entire planet is at risk; and worse, their parents are going to be really upset.

There's an out-of-work dad, a work-obsessed mom, a sister's criminally thuggish boyfriend and a lot of smashing, crashing, injury-inducing mishaps. What you will not find is any great character development or meaningful growth. The main character—Jimbo—sleeps through a few key plot turns (because it just feels good to sleep, right?) and falls out of step with the action. No clever craft techniques or plot twists. Nothing along the lines of outrage that this book did not win any awards.

But guess what? I didn't mind. It was just plain fun to read. It reminded me a bit of M.T. Anderson's WHALES ON STILTS (wherein whales on stilts are trying to take over the world), and well, I sure wouldn't mind being on his playing field.

In fact, I wouldn't mind if all I ever wrote were fun stories like BOOM! that provided a little escape from a pretty treacherous world.

Source: I bought my copy at Orca Books.

1 comment:

Kirby Larson said...

I'm adding it to the to-read list. Thanks for the tip!