Review of Lolito by Ben Brooks

It starts to rain. It crescendos. We’re halfway around the field. I don’t want to run. I’ll fall over if I try. I’ll fall over and I won’t want to stand up and I’ll lie in the grass and sad dogs will eat my body. Maybe I should do that. It might be fun. -Etgar, Lolito

I was browsing at the public library one day and happened upon a book entitled Lolito. Having never heard of the author before, I pulled it off the shelf because I liked the font on the spine. I was treated to a boy dressed up in a panda suit on the front cover and immediately, I was hooked. Next to the panda boy is a quote by Nick Cave:

“Lolito is the funniest most horrible book I’ve read in years. I was blown away.”

Well, Nick Cave, clearly, this book was meant for me to read.

Etgar Allison is our young protagonist. He is a fifteen year old left home with only his dog, Amundsen, on Easter holiday, while his parents head to Russia for a wedding. When it is discovered that his girlfriend got drunk and cheated on him, he falls into a haze of anxiety, depression, loneliness and alcohol. Lots of alcohol. It is about this time that he meets Macy in an adult chat room and they strike up a strange internet relationship. Here is where the story takes a turn for the interesting. Before this point, Etgar is floating aimlessly, avoiding his friends as much as possible and consuming copious amounts of alcohol. He spends his time with his dog, Amundsen, who might be one of my favorite characters in the book. Amundsen may not speak, but he is ever present drooling and pooping and needing walks, putting his head on Etgar’s lap when he needs a friend, eating tripe and vomiting. Macy is a lonely older woman, and they connect in a way Etgar feels he needs as he struggles to put his ex girlfriend Alice’s infidelity behind him.

Macy takes it further when she says she will be in London, where she thinks Etgar is, and there they meet for a very adult time. They share three days, filled with strange interactions and even stranger events, and connect enough to share the truth of their lives. However, as all good things in life can’t last, so does their time come to an end.

This book as amazing, and I am in love with the prose. Ben Brooks is an extremely talented writer who has the most amazing ability to put his words together and make you feel things. I wouldn’t recommend this book to the faint of heart, much like I wouldn’t a Chuck Palahniuk book. However, if references to snuff films, strange internet porn and bestiality are not going to drive you away, pick this book up. Go.

 

Hold Me Closer-The Tiny Cooper Story: A Review

About two years ago I read the young adult novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I read this book because two of my favorite novelists collaborated, John Green and David Levithan. As expected, this book was excellent. So, how could I not pick up Hold Me Closer-The Tiny Cooper Story?

Well, I couldn’t. That’s how.

There is nothing Tiny about Tiny Cooper. From his personality to his size to how gay he is, he is large in every aspect. He constantly refers to glitter, to grand dance numbers, to falling in love all the way, getting your heart broken and picking up the pieces to make art. Tiny is also a football player and a good son with a religious, football loving, supportive family. And I have to say, Tiny may be one of my favorite characters Levithan has written. I love Will Grayson, ex-boyfriend #18, because they are so perfectly imperfect together. They meet at a time in life when each one needs the other for different reasons, and though it is not thoroughly gone into, it is portrayed well through the little pieces of information Tiny throws in that are not part of the production. Which leads me to my favorite aspect of Levithan’s writing.

David Levithan has this way of making non-traditional formatting into something so beautiful, so easy to relate to, it blows me away. The way he wrote this play in Tiny’s voice, the fact that a play has a ‘voice’ at all, telling a story within a story in the stage directions, it was awesome. I could hear the songs set to music as I read the words, see the over the top kids on stage as they danced around covered in sparkly outfits. I could picture this being done outside the story but within Tiny’s life, see the Will Graysons and their reactions as they sat in the audience. Levithan just has this way of making you feel. He makes falling in love something amazing, heartbreak and all.

Another very important part of this play is the way Levithan portrays Tiny’s surroundings: he is accepted and loved. He is supported and defended. The people around him are okay with him being gay as much as they are with him playing football. The bullying is touched upon briefly, but I think it’s awesome it wasn’t the main plot-line. It gives me a sense of hope that the world is becoming a more accepting place. We can see it with marriage equality, but there are still so many scary judgmental people out there that seem to want an excuse to be assholes. And, in my humble opinion, high school is one of the worst places for being judged on the stupidest bullshit. David Levithan writes characters I would have been friends with in high school, people who, as they grow I would be friends with now. (If I had the expertise at friend making in my thirties). He writes a world I want to be part of.

Hold Me Closer-The Tiny Cooper Story is definitely worth a read for those who love young adult fiction. And it took me all of an hour or so to finish. Go. Get a copy. Read. Feel young again.

The Private Eye – A Review

It was one of those books that stuck off the shelf way too far, beyond the other books, a book people like me hate to put on their shelves because it just doesn’t fit right. So, clearly, I had to see what this offensively long book was titled, and if it was worth the size. Now, I’ll admit right here, I read fiction, mostly adult and young adult contemporary stuff. Graphic novels are not my favorite, nor do I have a wealth of knowledge on the subject. That being said, this one blew my mind! It was just… so fucking cool. The pulp aspect was a huge draw, the art was phenomenal, and the story was excellent. I devoured the book this evening.

The Private Eye is set in 2076 after the cloud burst, which led to everyone’s personal information being everywhere. Lives were wrecked, families destroyed, and, ultimately, the internet, cell phones, and electronic devices were banned in response. People took up costumes and different names to protect their identities. The United States was a completely re-imagined  place, both retro and futuristic in its details.

The main character is P.I. He’s this twenty-something guy who illegally works as what we think of as a private investigator. We learn a great deal about P.I. through the story, yet by the end, I wonder how well I really knew him. P.I. was like a young Bruce Willis in my mind; he was kind of a self involved bad ass, but you love him anyway. And, of course, the bad ass always has heart.

My favorite character in this whole damn book is P.I.’s grandfather. This man was drawn so damn brilliantly! He was hilarious, caring, crazy, and fearless. Gramps is an aged hipster sporting tattoos and spouting a constant stream of how he can’t get his electronics to work. I love Gramps. I love Gramps for his words at the end. For his belief.

The world Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Munsta Vicente have created is well thought out, interesting, and both terrifying yet oddly attractive. How long can we get away with putting all of our trust in technology before it comes back to bite us in the ass? Our phones can pay our bills, buy us lunch, navigate our vehicles, respond to voice commands, take videos and upload ANYTHING EVER to our social networking sites. It’s kind of terrifying. And, like every good response, society takes the cloud burst and runs so far the opposite way, there is little to no connections made in the not so distant future society we are shown.

I found this book at my public library, but it turns out there is a website, http://panelsyndicate.com/ , where the creators of the comics give their works to people for  whatever they are willing to pay. Straight from creators to readers. I love this site.

Check it out. It’s worth the time for Gramps alone.

Charles De Lint’s The Painted Boy

There is something both profoundly traumatic and intensely beautiful about the adolescent years. It’s what drew me to pursue a degree in criminal justice with a focus on juvenile social justice. It’s why I write so many fictional characters in their teens, why I love the young adult genre. Perhaps it’s also because as I was such an “emo” kid that I tend to seek out stories that reflect the emotions and troubles I can relate to from my past, and this genre is rife with these.

Today, I finished Charles De Lint’s The Painted Boy. It’s been many years since I read anything by him, but the name rings a chord in me, a memory of a fantastical world he created set in both our world and the realm of faerie. So, I gave this newer book a shot. It’s also a fantasy fiction set in a mythical, real to life world filled with gang violence, death, and music. However, it revolves around a boy who is a dragon. Or has a dragon inside of him. He’s not quite sure. His name is Jay Li, and he is on some sort of quest at the urging of his Paupau. He doesn’t know what kind of quest, or how to find it, or even if he’ll know it when he does. This book is about his journey, and the people, both human and fantastical, that he meets along the way.

Charles De Lint’s novel kept me riveted. I read the book in the span of a few hours. De Lint switched points of view throughout the book, but the  story was told primarily through Jay’s first person viewpoint. Normally, I hate dual and multiple POV’s, because they take away a certain element of surprise and mystery, and it seems are used as a crutch in YA fiction to make a story longer. All it does is make the reader not have to do any work by telling them a whole story instead of using the lack of words to tell the story. However, that being said, when used in certain ways I am not opposed to multiple POV. Due to the multifaceted plot line, I felt the telling helped to shape the story, and definitely didn’t give away too much.

Now, as much as I couldn’t put the book down, some parts didn’t feel completely fleshed out. I think this is because there were so many things happening to so many people at once. And despite Jay being the main character, he’s who I felt I knew the least. He was never given any hobbies, any musical tastes, and passions. Jay was a mystery. Maybe that was the author’s intent, due to his life’s purpose being a mystery. However, I think I would have been more invested in Jay if I knew some of the things he loved back home, things he missed, more about his past. I think the ending would have carried a lot more weight had we been given more of Jay’s personality.

So, all in all, I thought the book was pretty good. And for me to get into a book, it has draw me in immediately and keep me there, or I don’t waste my time. This book definitely wasn’t a waste of time.