Okay, I admit it. I was first drawn to this book for the title. And then I learned that the author would be attending Winter Institute 8, an indie bookseller convention in Kansas City, MO (or is that KS?), in February, so when the advance reading copy finally landed at the store, I made a dive for it that looked a little like this:
In fact, I'm not sure that my coworkers were at all prepared for that little bit of athleticism, which is probably why I prevailed victoriously over them. Either that, or I said something like, "Hey, I'd like to read that one. Are y'all cool if I take it home with me?" Definitely one or the other. I'll leave it to you to suss out which scenario was more real. (The former. For sure.)
Anyway, so, back to the book. I'm not sure that I can improve on the publisher-provided summary on GoodReads: "Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life."
Aside from the hopelessly hipster names (Ezra Faulkner? Cassidy Thorpe? Puh-leeze) that made it hard for me to take this book seriously, I mostly did enjoy it--a high school novel where the dialogue is, refreshingly, not too brilliantly snarky to be believed. The book starts off with a bang--almost literally--as our first person narrator, Ezra, recounts the time when he and his friend Toby rode on Thunder Mountain Railway at Disneyland when they were twelve. When one of the foreign tourists in the front of the carriage stands up during the ride and gets decapitated, it's Toby's bad luck to catch the severed head, thus scarring him for
life junior high. Therefore Ezra must drop him as a friend in order to retain his cool factor.
Most of the rest of the book is spent developing Phase II of their friendship. Once Ezra's physical effects from the car accident are made known, he's not comfortable palling around with his jock clique any longer, thank goodness. Because clearly Toby, the debate team captain and gamer extraordinaire, is far more an interesting character for the reader. Meanwhile, Ezra is busy falling in love with the new girl, Cassidy Thorpe, who is (natch) intelligent, beautiful, mysterious, privileged, and a little wistful. They do debate club together and play in the park and generally fall in love. They're all set to go to the homecoming dance when Cassidy blows Ezra off. But why?
Remember that part when I said Cassidy was mysterious? Turns out, she's Hiding Things. Things that just build and build and build and build while Ezra is simply trying to figure out up from down. The catch is that the Big Reveal comes after a novel's length of build up, so that when the reader finally gets to it, it's a little like this:
I mean, I'm expecting Death and Destruction, but there's only death and destruction, both of which the reader mostly already knew. Still, the writing is better than average (the grammar is actually much higher than average, and that always scores points for me) and generally funny, which I find is often the case in books featuring nerdish folks who aren't popular but aren't outcasts, either. I guess in some ways the characters reminded me of some of my friends from high school. WAY too smart for our own good, but perhaps not quite as smart, and definitely not as sophisticated, as we thought ourselves.
Describing the preps for a debate team hotel party: "It turned out everyone's suspiciously oversized duffel bags were full of party supplies. Specifically, gin and whiskey and wine--the fancy stuff my parents drank, not the cheap beer that went into Solo cups at high-school parties. There were speakers, too, sleek expensive ones that plugged into Austin's iPod, and tonic water with lime, and little wedges of gourmet cheese, and a baguette, which I found particularly hilarious as Phoebe pulled it out of her mini-suitcase. I didn't know any sixteen-ear-olds who bought baguettes as party supplies (153). "
I think the word baguette jumps out at me now because I'm re-reading all of the Harry Potter books and I recall a friend telling me once that she had to laugh when reading the books in French, because the word "wand" was translated into "baguette," and it was hard not to snort when reading about Voldemort & Harry's dueling with baguettes. Which of course then makes me look for a funny gif about that:
Anywho, this book will be published by Harper Collins in May of this year. In case you weren't paying attention above, I read the ARC of this book voluntarily when it randomly showed up at my bookstore. Here's what the cover of the ARC looks like: