Source: ARC from Netgalley

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Posted October 3, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny OffillTitle: Dept. of Speculation (Goodreads)
Author: Jenny Offill
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2014
Pages: 182
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill tells the story of an unnamed narrator known only as The Wife. This novella charts the narrator through all her uncertainties, as she overanalyses everything in her head from the small things to big things like her marriage. The analysis can invoke anything from Kafka to doomed Russian cosmonauts. The title comes from the letters the wife exchanged with her husband which are postmarked as Dept. of Speculation; the letters were a way to voice her uncertainties. However as the two drifts further apart she starts to lose this outlet, which could be her inherit downfall.

This novella offers a very real look at a person’s life who overanalyses everything. Now I am not going to tell you whether or not this narrator is unreliable or anything like that. I think this is something the reader needs to determine for himself or herself. It doesn’t matter either way, this book takes something intensely real and, at times, this can be a little too real. The way Offill has captured this character’s thoughts and emotions is what makes this book both deep and meaningful.

There is however a huge flaw in this novel, something that was pointed out by a friend before I went into this book. In the edition I read there was a huge amount of italicised text and not all of it was referenced. There are times that the author states who said the quotes and then for the most part leaves quotes unreferenced. While normally I have no problem with no referencing within fiction, but when it takes up a large chunk of the writing, it starts to become a problem. Especially when you find text that speaks to you but it is italicised.  Was it a famous quote and was she trying to pass this off as her own words?

There is great beauty within this novella and there is a lot to love about it. This large flow I found with the novel really caused a problem which is a shame. I love books that explore complex human emotions and thoughts, Julian Barnes does this really well and Jenny Offill is just as good. I wanted to love this book and jump on the bandwagon but I couldn’t. I try to wonder if I would have the same problem if it wasn’t pointed out to me before I started this novel, I like to think I would but this friend always puts me to shame when it comes to critical analysis.


The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puértolas

Posted June 22, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 6 Comments

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain PuértolasTitle: The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe (Goodreads)
Author: Romain Puértolas
Translator: Sam Taylor
Published: Harvill Secker, 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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“A heart is a little bit like a large wardrobe” — Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe (or L’extraordinaire voyage du fakir qui était resté coincé dans une armoire Ikea) is the debut novel by Romain Puértolas that has been marketed to fans of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (or Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann) by Jonas Jonasson. For the purpose of making things easier (and to avoid the insanely long titles) I’ll refer to these two books as The Fakir and The Hundred-Year-Old Man (I hope you can work out which is which. I picked up The Fakir simply because I need to read more translated fiction, with that logic I probably should read The Hundred-Year-Old Man. While the writing styles might not be similar, if you enjoyed The Hundred-Year-Old Man because it was a quirky, fun novel then The Fakir is a book you’ll need to go out and buy.

The novel reminds me of something David Niven (The Pink Panther) or The Marx Brothers would adapt to screen. You know the type of movies I’m talking about; the comedies full of misfortunes and stupidity but everything somehow works out in the end. The novel tells the story of a fakir named Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod flown to Paris for the purpose of visiting Ikea and buying a new bed of nails. Dressed in a fine silk suit to pass himself off as a wealthy Indian business man, the con man had nothing but a counterfeit 100-Euro note (printed on one side only) in his pocket. This trip to Paris sends him off on an adventure that finds him in places like London, Barcelona and Rome and not one sight was seen. No Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Sagrada Família (unfortunately) or Colosseum.

I’m not sure if it is a problem with the translation but I expected a little more from The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe and I can’t tell if it didn’t translate or a deep seeded desire for something more complex. I enjoy that light read but found nothing funny about the novel and thought it was too inconsequential; I wanted more meat to the story. There were opportunities to explore themes of immigration, friendships, celebrities, travel and Europe but all these were just background and the focus remained on trying to write a quirky comedy. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, sometimes a light palate cleanser is all you need, and I was just ready for something with substance. It doesn’t take much effort to read The Fakir and the book did explore the concept of a culture clash but this was to the extent of something like The Gods Must Be Crazy.

Sam Taylor was the translator for this novel and he has worked on a number of great French novels that are all still sitting on my TBR pile. He has translations include A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker and HHhH by Laurent Binet. This leads me to believe that my issues with The Fakir are not with the translation but with the book itself. One other concern I have is not with this book per say but with this need to add real people into the story. I’m not entirely comfortable with basing a novel around a person who is deceased, so it feels a little weird when you have a character named Sophie Marceau in this novel. The Fakir actually refers to Sophie Marceau as the French actress from the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough so we know the author is referring to the celebrity. I often wonder how these people feel about being put into a novel and if they are being portrayed accurately. It doesn’t sit right with me and I’m not sure if I’m the only one that wonders about something as small as using celebrities in a novel; I am sure some novels call for it but it this one didn’t.

I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy this novel but I tend to pick out the parts of a book that didn’t work for me. I think it is freeing to express all my problems with a book and it may come across as a little negative, but in all honesty, this was a fun, short read. I normally gravitate to books with more substance but something light is a nice change. In all honesty I would have liked the novel to explore at least one of the issues that it presented rather than use them as plot points. Even going deeper into the concept of culture clash could have improved my enjoyment of the novel but I have come to expect that not everyone likes to read complex novels. I suspect The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe to be a runaway success and to be adapted into a film; I wonder who they would get to play Sophie Marceau.


The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman

Posted May 23, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 3 Comments

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle WaldmanTitle: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P (Goodreads)
Author: Adelle Waldman
Published: Henry Holt and Co., 2013
Pages: 256
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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When I first started reading Adelle Waldman’s debut novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, my first thoughts were that this is Sex in the City from a male perspective. To some extent my first impressions weren’t far off, that is not to say this isn’t a great novel. If you want a modern novel about the dating world then this is the one for you. Nate Piven is a Brooklynite about to blast into the literary scene; that is to say, his novel is about to be published and in his circles that is all that matters.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P is a study into the dating life of, you guessed it, Nate Piven. He is a pretentious misogynist asshole, with a terrible track record when it comes to women. Nate suddenly finds himself with options; his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, a business reporter and a smart, intelligent nice girl. You can probably guess how this novel plays out; Waldman’s plot is far from perfect and sometimes predicable but that is not the reason to read her book in the first place.

The novel is an exploration into the modern dating world as well as a glimpse into the New York literary scene. Adelle Waldman does an amazing job exploring the dating scene and the modern man. She gets the male voice almost perfect, a little clichéd but maybe that is just how man are. I can’t help but get frustrated at Nate, I found myself wanting to yell, “Use your words” at the page multiple times. It can be infuriating to see all the stupid mistakes he keeps making but the journey makes for a great novel.

I don’t want to be picky but the characters in The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P were predominantly white and that felt like a bit of a problem. I always think of New York City as a diverse city, the literary world may not be as diverse but there is diversity in it, however this felt more like the TV representation of New York. In fact this novel felt so much like it was written in the hopes that it could be converted into a TV show or movie, I almost expected there to be a ‘token black guy’. I don’t think it would have taken much effort to add some diversity into the novel; I would have been happy if they mentioned one character being African American, Asian American or anything just to add a touch of multiculturalism into the book. I don’t know why I care about the diversity in this novel more than others; I think I enjoyed it so much I was just looking for flaws.

Reading about the dating life of Nate, you get a sense of his psychology. His attitude towards women, his complicated relationship with his parents, his fear of commitment and his complacency in a relationship; it all felt so real. The kind of thoughts that I remember having when I was younger, the modern men’s struggles to get their lives together, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P seemed to really get this right.

Despite the flaws in the novel, I was really impressed; Adelle Waldman’s debut novel really got the modern dating world right. Well, I’m old and married now but it was how I imagine it would be like out there for a single person. Nate’s friend Aurit’s got it right, “We might as well be on fucking Sex and the City”. I’m sure a younger person might compare this novel to something like Girls but if you are looking for a novel about dating you should check out The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.  I especially enjoyed all the bookish conversations in this novel, which always makes a novel better.


Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

Posted May 16, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 8 Comments

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman KochTitle: Summer House with Swimming Pool (Goodreads)
Author: Herman Koch
Translator: Sam Garrett
Published: Hogarth, 2014
Pages: 304
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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Herman Koch has a unique ability for taking something that seems so normal and turning it into something much darker. If you’ve read his amazing novel The Dinner then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about; that book sets up a style that I was hoping continued for this Dutch author. Luckily I wasn’t disappointed; Koch’s second novel to be translated into English is Summer House with Swimming Pool. The novel tells the story of Dr Marc Schlosser who is forced to conceal a medical mistake that costs Ralph Meier, a famous actor, his life. The only problem with that is the truth doesn’t stay hidden for too long.

Fear not, much like The Dinner, Summer House with Swimming Pool is much more complex than it appears on the surface. Herman Koch likes to take a dark and graphic look at the world and raise the questions of morality, this is something seems to pull off effortlessly, but I will try to avoid giving spoilers. We spend most of the book following around the general practitioner who seems like an unsympathetic character and rather unlikeable. Koch likes to play with the idea that everything is not as it seems and this novel does this really well.

I can’t remember if I went into The Dinner with the same expectations as I did for Summer House with Swimming Pool but I suspect I might have had a similar reading experience. It is hard to review a novel like this because you want to talk about it but there is a voice in the back of your mind telling you not to spoil it for everyone else.

One thing that I find interesting with Koch’s novels is the number of characters and scenery. I thought this about The Dinner as well, these novels are perfect for a small stage production; they have just the right blend of dark satirical plot and moral questions to make for a thrilling stage play. I wonder if these books have been converted to the stage, I would love to see a production of The Dinner.

I’m rather annoyed with this review, there is so much I want to say but everything will say too much. You will all have to read this book so we can discuss it. Herman Koch’s books are perfect choices for a book club; there is just so much to discuss. I wonder if I can convince my local book club to do this book as well; they normally don’t like to do the same author too many times but Koch is too good to resist.


The Fever by Megan Abbott

Posted May 15, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary, Pulp / 12 Comments

The Fever by Megan AbbottTitle: The Fever (Goodreads)
Author: Megan Abbott
Published: Little Brown and Company, 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary, Pulp
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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If you have not read Megan Abbott before then you need to do so as soon as possible. Originally working in the noir genre she has recently switched and become the Queen of suburban noir. Combining the elements we all know and love about noir and adding it to a modern back drop. Dare Me was a dark glimpse into the world of competitive cheerleading; think Mean Girls but meaner. Now Megan Abbott is back with The Fever, set in a small community, a mysterious contagion is threating their suburban utopia.

I may have said this before; just because a book has a teenage cast does not make this a YA novel. Dare Me may look like chick lit or YA but it is not; don’t let the cover fool you. I’ve seen on Goodreads that The Fever has been shelved as YA and horror and I can’t help but shake my head in disgust. While I’m sure plenty of young adults may enjoy this novel, I see nothing that connects The Fever with the YA genre. There are no horror elements within this novel either, a little suspense and I’m guessing this genre tag came from the cover. Now that my rant is out of the way, time to look at the novel.

Like Dare Me (and I’m sorry to keep mentioning this novel, I really need to read more Abbott) The Fever is a compelling noir that exposes the secrets that might be hiding in a suburban community. The Fever is a dark and chilling story that explores the ideas of desire, guilt and secrets. The mysterious contagion that is causing seizures to a group of girls is also promoting mass hysteria in the community. In an effort to make sense of this mystery, the community focus their blame on anything they can think of, from HPV, vaccinations, toxic algae and whatever else might make sense of the situation.

At the heart of this novel, I found an interesting exploration into sexuality, especially between the groups of teenage friends. These girls are in the midst of blossoming into women; their emotions are running wild and boys are become a popular source conversation. In the darkness and confusion they are dealing with these changes all alone. Abbott is putting the focus of the community on the contagion and this really amplifies that feeling of being alone and dealing with a budding sexual awaking without any help or guidance.

The Fever has everything you expect from a Megan Abbott novel; it is deliciously dark and sinister, it packs a huge punch and in the end you are left contemplating life. She has once again got the voice of the teenage generation perfect, not only the way they talk and interact but their thoughts as well. I like how Abbott integrates mobile phones and social media into her novels so effortlessly, I’ve seen it down poorly far too many times.

I know I’ve only read two novels to judge Megan Abbott on but she continues to impress, I know The End of Everything will be consumed pretty soon before moving onto her old school noir novels. I love her modern suburban noir style, she has really found her voice and style and it is working well for her. Don’t go in expecting a nice coming of age story; this is gritty and this is what Megan Abbott does better than anyone else.


Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

Posted May 13, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia, Science Fiction / 0 Comments

Shovel Ready by Adam SternberghTitle: Shovel Ready (Goodreads)
Author: Adam Sternbergh
Published: Hachette, 2014
Pages: 256
Genres: Dystopia
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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He is only known as Spademan, former garbage man in New York City – that was until a terrorist attack on Times Square killed his wife. Now he is taking out more than trash; a gun for hire, he will do your bidding as long as you are willing to pay. “I don’t want to know your reasons. I don’t care. Think of me as a bullet. Just point.” Shovel Ready is a fast paced science fiction thriller set in the wasteland, which use to be known as New York City.

Adam Sternbergh combines his favourite parts of neo-noir, cyberpunk and science fiction and mashes them all together to make an action novel that is crying out for a movie adaptation. Shovel Ready is so dialogue heavy that one might think it is written in a way that could be converted into a screenplay without any effort. Only problem with this is the publisher’s choice to leave out quotation marks. I hate when they do this and in a book with so much dialogue it really can be a deterrent.

Spademan is a strong protagonist, an anti-hero with strength, wit and his own set of morels. “I kill men and I kill women because I don’t discriminate. I don’t kill children because that’s a different kind of psycho.” I understand why he turns from killer to protector of his target, the runaway daughter of a wealthy US televangelist. However something didn’t sit right; a hitman is often an unemotional, uncompromising character but Spademan wasn’t. He reads like a psychopath but then every so often his actions feel uncharacteristic and that really throws me out of the novel.

Take out Spademan and just look at the world Sternbergh has created and you won’t be left wondering where he drew inspiration from. This world feels like Bladerunner and the virtual reality world know as the limnosphere reminds me of The Matrix mixed with Surrogates. In fact, it feels like the author borrowed so much from different science fiction movies and novels it is hard to pick an original thought.

When reading Shovel Ready everything whisks along and the reader never has time to stop and think about anything. I really enjoyed the novel but once I finished reading it I noticed just how much was borrowed from other mediums. I do, however, wonder if Shovel Ready was really trying to explore the issue of social disengagement that our world is heading towards but during the reading of this novel I never picked up anything so in depth.

For a fast paced science fiction/action novel, then Shovel Ready is the book for you. I do believe the film rights have already been acquired and we may see an adaptation. Adam Sternbergh is also working on a second Spademan novel and I’ll probably read it. Despite all the flaws, it was a fun, quick read and I did enjoy the experience; it was only after I got mad. Don’t expect anything deep or life altering in Shovel Ready but sometimes you just need some light entertainment.


The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black

Posted March 28, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp / 6 Comments

The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin BlackTitle: The Black-Eyed Blonde (Goodreads)
Author: Benjamin Black
Series: Philip Marlowe #10
Published: Mantle, 2014
Pages: 256
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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Resurrecting iconic literary characters is tricky business and when John Banville (under the pseudonym Benjamin Black) signed on to write another Philip Marlowe novel, I was worried. Most people know I am a huge fan of Marlowe, the hard-boiled detective created by Raymond Chandler, but something in me had to know if The Black-Eyed Blonde was any good. Now I’m left to decide if to review this as a Philip Marlowe novel or cliché pulp.

The premise is simple; a blonde bombshell, Clare Cavendish, seeks out Marlowe to find her missing lover Nico Peterson. If we look at the tropes of pulp fiction, in particular hard-boiled detective novels than we must suspect Clare to be the femme fatale and the case would be full of unexpected twists and turns. In both aspects The Black-Eyed Blonde failed to deliver anything interesting; Clare was attractive and seductive but never really had an air of mystery about her and the case felt too cut and dry.

Now let’s look at the protagonist; clearly not Philip Marlowe but someone trying to impersonate this great detective. Marlowe is a modern day knight in shiny armour; in a world of corruption he is incorruptible. He is also a flawed character; Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe is a loner, bitter, cynical, quick witted with a silver tongue. The Marlowe portrayed here was a much older, slower babbling mess; nothing really rang true. You can look at the amount of alcohol Chandler’s Marlowe drinks and wonder just how a man can function but in this novel while he drank a lot, the Mexican beers don’t sit right. Also you have to wonder about the dialogue; the Marlowe in The Black-Eyed Blonde talked differently, I tried to place the way he spoke and all I could think was this character was from Brooklyn.

Since nothing in this book felt like a Philip Marlowe novel, I tried to read The Black-Eyed Blonde in the same way I would read any other pulp. I tried to separate my love of Philip Marlowe and Raymond Chandler’s writing to give a fair review but it is hard to separate the two. Even if I judge The Black-Eyed Blonde as a standalone novel I still feel like the whole thing was a bit flat. There are some decent moments in this book and I was mildly entertained, however I doubt I will ever read a Benjamin Black novel again based on this experience.

I really want to see more Philip Marlowe stories but everyone who attempts it seems to butcher the character. The Black-Eyed Blonde was better than Perchance to Dream but the bar was set so low that I think Benjamin Black must have tripped over it. Do yourself a favour; stick to Raymond Chandler. If you’ve never read a Philip Marlowe novel start with The Lady in the Lake, it is a good introduction to the character and the style without being overly complex. For me, I may just reread the series (an excuse to blog about them) and try Chandler’s short stories.


Scare Me by Richard Parker

Posted December 26, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 0 Comments

Scare Me by Richard ParkerTitle: Scare Me (Goodreads)
Author: Richard Parker
Published: Exhibit A, 2013
Pages: 386
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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“When did you last Google yourself?” That was what wealthy businessman, Will Frost was asked by an anonymous late night caller. When Will got online, he found a website with photographs of his home along with six other houses he’s never seen before. Within the first house a gruesome murder has already taken place. His family is in danger and the only way to save them is to visit all seven houses, discover their connection before the police discovers him.

First of all, I decided to google Richard Parker just to get an idea of who he was. If you were wondering, Richard Parker is not the sailor and president of the Floating Republic, Peter Parker’s (Spiderman) dad, a Bengal tiger or from Weekend at Bernie’s. Richard Parker is in fact an English writer who spent over twenty years writing for TV (nothing I’ve heard of). He was nominated for the Crime Writers Associations John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award in 2010 for is dark thriller Stop Me.

Scare Me is his second book (and if you were wondering they are both standalone novels) and Will Frost’s struggle to save his daughter’s life from a twisted and sadistic psychopath. This novel has all the typical thriller tropes and you can pretty much match this against your expectations and come up with the exact plot in your head. This is something I found rather frustrating; I was never surprised, everything seemed obvious and expected.

This wasn’t the major problem I had with this novel; my issue was with the characters. Will Frost is so two dimensional and inherently good there was nothing interesting or complex about him, I found this boring. I like characters that are complex and flawed; I didn’t even find this in the killer either. Their motivation came a little too late into the novel, there was no hints (although you can guess easily) and when you find out, it was too late to save the novel.

You also have major plot problems, which is a shame since the idea of scavenger hunt of dead bodies is a great one. An example, all phones work in every country, no need for international roaming (this isn’t a big problem but when you make a deal of buying a new phone you could mention something). Also there is the fact Will’s old phone was amazing; He hides it on the killer to track it and the phone never goes flat. I struggle to last a day with my phone, so I’m keen to get my hands on a phone that lasts so long.

You add all these up, with the basic writing style and you have a novel that didn’t work for me. I liked the premise and had high hopes but I was let down. I wish I abandoned this novel and moved on to something different but unfortunately I pushed myself. I know of a few people that have read and enjoyed this novel, I’m happy for them, I wish I was one of them but there was too much I couldn’t let go.


The Never List by Koethi Zan

Posted October 20, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 0 Comments

The Never List by Koethi ZanTitle: The Never List (Goodreads)
Author: Koethi Zan
Published: Vintage, 2013
Pages: 303
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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Sarah and Jennifer kept a “Never List”; this is a list of things to avoid, to keep safe. Rule number one “Never get into a strangers car” but this is what happened and they were abducted. Ten years later Sarah still struggles to get over the torturous event that took plays in that dungeon-like cellar. Now that her abductor is up for parole Sarah decides this is her last chance to find Jennifer’s body and keep this sadist in prison.

I want to compare Koethi Zan’s debut The Never List to thriller authors like S.J. Watson but maybe Gillian Flynn is a better choice. Much like Flynn’s Gone Girl, The Never List does something different to the thriller genre that I don’t think I’ve seen before. Rest assured the standard psychological thriller tropes are there but this novel focuses more on the psychological rather than the thriller elements.

The Never List focuses on the aftermath of the abduction and sadistic torture and focuses on Sarah as she tries to recover from these traumatic events. Though this wasn’t done to a full extent and I end up feeling like this was a missed opportunity to really explore the psychology and the road to recovery (if you can truly come back from that), rather it went to the thriller clichés instead.

I really enjoyed the focus on the aftermaths but Koethi Zan had other ideas for this novel. I did end up enjoying the thrilling journey it ended up taking but I felt like the twists were too visible and never unexpected. I choice to see the lack of character development as an attempt for Sarah and the others to protect themselves from being hurt again, this seemed to work well for the enjoyment of this novel.

I don’t want to give too much away, just in case people want to read this novel and it is well worth checking out. I did enjoy the book, I had questions and upon reflection when I tried to get these answers I noticed most of the major problems. For me the novel had the opportunity to do something different but took the safe path and followed a cliché thriller path. The ending felt anti climatic as a result of the safety in plotting.

Thriller fans will enjoy this book; I just think there was a missed opportunity to do something far more complex and interesting. As a debut novel, I can understand why Koethi Zan didn’t risk it but I would have liked the book a whole lot more. As I said before I would compare it to S.J. Watson and Gillian Flynn, so if you like their books you may enjoy this one. I’m interested to see what Zan does in the future; she has a promising career ahead of her.


Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Posted October 17, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Young Adult / 0 Comments

Boy Meets Boy by David LevithanTitle: Boy Meets Boy (Goodreads)
Author: David Levithan
Published: Harper Collins, 2003
Pages: 223
Genres: Young Adult
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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Paul is a sophomore in a high school unlike any other. He meets Noah, and thinks he is the one, the person he will spend the rest of his life with. That was until he blew it, the school bookie has the odds 12 to 1 against him. But Paul is determined to not let this get him down; he knows what he wants and will go after it.

This is your typical romantic comedy done in a different way. I want to talk about the world first; in this utopian world sexuality is not an issue. Even in the high school, the homecoming queen is also the quarterback (Her name Infinite Darlene, but her parents called her Daryl) and every click is divided into gay stereotype, except for the straight people who seem to be bunched into an (almost outcast) group. The school has a gay-straight alliance which was formed to teach the straight people to dance. Everything is too perfect; no one struggled with their sexuality or identity.

I’m not sure if it is just me improving as a reader but I spent most of this novel questioning everything and not enjoying the clichés and ease of these people’s lives. No one seemed to have any major issues and for a high school that seems too fake; this is why I’m convinced they live in the utopian world where everything is perfect. These students are highly intelligent and seem to have everything worked out, the only struggles they have are the ones needed to drive the typical romcom plot.

My first experience with David Levithan was his co-written novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green and while I enjoyed that book enough to try his novels there was just too much that bothered me about this one. I’m assuming this is bad news for any other John Green books that I might read, their styles are very similar but I just couldn’t get past of the unanswered questions that I asked.

I’m glad there are romantic comedies between two guys and I think more GSM (Gender and/or sexual minority or LGBT if you prefer) novels are needed. I just don’t like that no one seems to have real struggles; I want this in all characters. I never expect a teenager in particular to have everything worked out and with their budding sexuality there are so many complex emotions that could be dealt with in a book like this.

One other thing that really bothered me in this book was the excess of nods. I began to think of all the characters as bobble heads rather than humans. It is like excess winking in novels, no human nods or winks that much in real life, why do they do it in books? I know with nodding it is just a way to show that a character agrees but if it is used too much it just feels too unrealistic.

This is an entertaining book that I just had too many issues with, not enough to never try Levithan again (still want to read Two Boys Kissing) but it really bothered me. I know many people loved this book and his style still feels similar to John Green, so I think it’s just me. I will love to know what worked or didn’t work for the people that have read this book. I don’t think I’m missing anything, so why is this much loved YA novel so difficult to enjoy.