Sunday, August 12, 2007

Isn't 'Lad Lit' a funny term?


I was really looking forward to reading A Long Way Down. I'd been meaning to get in on the whole Nick Hornby love for years now. Especially since my esteemed friend, Kip, is such a big fan. As I do try to avoid adult novels, my only recourse was, of course, to assign it to the book group. I'm quite the overlord like that.

Of course, I forgot the darn book when I went on vacation. As group was literally 3 days after I returned, that wasn't very smart. Fortunately, it gave me a really good reason to visit my old hometown library. Where I also used to work. I borrowed theirs. They were very nice about it.

But, to the book. This is a review site, after all. I suppose. Of sorts.

Four strangers find themselves at the same time at the same place with the same goal: Midnight, New Year's Eve; the roof of Topper's House; suicide. Surprised not to be alone in what they thought to be their last moments, the four disparate characters turn to each other and find the one thing they thought they had given up - hope.

Maureen, JJ, Martin and Jess. Mother, rocker, celebrity, obnoxious teen. I enjoyed it. It took me forever to read, but I appreciated the ever-present dark humor. It was far lighter than one should rightfully expect a novel about suicide to be, but it didn't hold back when the darkness was warranted. It's a bit of the tragicomic. Maureen's story was especially sad. Jess was marvelously unreliable as a narrator. Martin was realistically unlikable, but interesting. JJ was probably the weakest character-wise, but Hornby avoided making him into an American cliche, so that's something.

Did I mention that the entire book rotates through each of the four's voices? Group, by large, had a hard time following the shift in POV. I didn't really have a problem, but I can admit to a few chapters where I had to flip back to figure out who was talking. This was usually between Martin and JJ.

There has been a shift in my group that became wildly obvious at this session. Suddenly, I found myself primarily surrounded by 20-somethings. When I started this group, almost a year ago now, I was by far, the youngest person there. Gradually, the average age has sunk (by like, 30 years). It's neither here nor there, as all are very much welcome to come, it is just interesting to note.

Coincidentally, Hornby's first teen novel, Slam, comes out in October. I do think I shall check that out. I think the pairing just might be ideal.

4 comments:

Dan said...

Nick Hornby is great! Still haven't finished fever pitch yet, but high fidelity was great...

TadMack said...

Is there a reason you avoid adult novels? I mean, I know why *I* do, just wondered if there were specific reasons. I find that I simply am too far behind reading YA to even think about whatever adult thing is new...

Jackie Parker said...

Good question T, and one without an easy answer. I find that adult novels (not all, certainly) are either pretentious, boring or stale. YA stuff... it's fresh, it's exciting. There is enthusiasm. You can have jaded characters, but the writing isn't jaded. For me, the flat-out ratio of good Teen Lit vs bad Teen Lit is so much better than with the adults. If I go pick up a random teen book I've never seen before I find that I'm more likely to enjoy it than if I did the same thing with adult books. It's a taste thing. That, and I think that there's less of the cookie-cutter effect with teens; ie more originality.

I think there is also the element of hope. I suppose that's the jaded bit. Adult Literature seems to have way more baggage. It depresses me.

It comes down to where I want to spend my free time, and who I want to hang out with. Just as I'll always pick a Romatic Comedy before I'll choose a Horror Flick. One inspires and makes me feel good about humanity. The other? Not so much.

This said - I drop things for David Sedaris and Diana Gabaldon. Christopher Moore is lovely. I'm kinda over her, but Evanovich's Stephanie Plum amused me.

I don't know. Teen books are for everyone. Adult books aren't. I might not agree with anything I said here in two weeks. I mean, I am making sweeping generalizations, and those aren't ever good. ;)

TadMack said...

Hah!
I kind of agree with you.
I have a friend who is always wanting to loan me "this great book," and I usually turn them down, or put them on a shelf and forget about them... because adult books are NOT for everyone, are they? There's a kind of level-playing-field that writers of YA lit strive for that other novelists do not. That makes YA lit very appealing.

I know that I write to point out the commonalities of experience, which is a constant reassurance that I needed as a young adult... and especially for those who are raised in rather odd households, it's also good to know what most people do not do; sometimes that's the thing that helps them normalize their own experiences or realize that something is SO abnormal that they should maybe tell someone.

But I digress -- yeah, we probably will both disagree with this by next week, but it's true - I avoid adult books too because I'd rather spend time with a fresher, more hopeful perspective.

Hm.