I’ve been staring at this book since it came out last year. I’ve been forgetting about it every time I actually had the opportunity to read it. So then my best friend came to visit, and as tradition states, we each picked out a book to read. This was mine, and I ate it up.
- Author: Len Vlahos
- Publisher: Egmont
- Year: 2014
- Genre vibe: Contemporary, self discovery
- At a glance: Harry Jones is an outcast. A disaster involving a tree, some bullies, and a bolt of lightning when he was a kid left him grievously scarred. This book tells the story of Harry’s life as he grows up, forms a band with his best friend, and experiences life on the road. It is told as if Harry has gotten sidetracked in the process of writing a college application essay.
I’ll admit it up front: I’m a sucker for coming of age stories. Boy or girl, rich or poor, fantasy or contemporary or steampunk or horror. There’s something undeniably heartfelt about a good growing-up story. I’ve never been one for whimsy or childishness-at-heart qualities in books. But the theme of youth is my favorite, and it lends itself perfectly to one of the best and biggest themes out there: struggle.
A good coming of age novel, or a novel of self-discovery, is at its heart just a story about someone struggling with something, or a lot of things. And a story of struggle is one that can get to just about anybody’s heart. And they really, really get to mine.
This book is a lot like that. This book has a ton of good things going for it. It has interesting (if not loveable) characters, really good writing, a fantastic concept, and things that make your heart ache. It’s a smallish (237 pages) book, undaunting, not hard to read, and easy to get into. It doesn’t take much from you and the blows it deals, while they may make you yell some not so nice things at times, are not devastating.
This book cleared my head, in a way. We all know that reading is hard, and that sometimes you want to read this one particular kind of thing, but for the life of you you can’t find it, so you end up stuck in a cycle of reading whatever lands in your lap. This is me, and my reading life keeps throwing contemporary at me. So I read. Some are hits, some are misses. This is a hit.
One of the best things about this book was how put-together it felt. It was one of the rare times where I couldn’t help appreciating how much it seemed like the author had his stuff together. So I ended up praising it mostly on the side of writing. The actual style was incredible: in character, in atmosphere, and strangely real. I could almost hear Harry talking in my head more than I could imagine him speaking in person, and it was all in the word choice and flow of the book. Very good. Very, very good.
This book in general was just very, very good. I enjoyed it hugely. It’s got a great aesthetic, and it’s very nice to hold in paperback form. That is all.
- Rating: 4/5 stars
- Recommended to: People who like contemporary, heartache, and really good writing craftsmanship.
- Lasting impression: dusty guitar cases. The cold glance of an ex-friend. Shaking hands, twirling a guitar pick in your fingertips.