I wasn't allowed to read this one as a kid but continued to borrow it from the school library anyway. Mum decided I couldn't be trusted to return it,...moreI wasn't allowed to read this one as a kid but continued to borrow it from the school library anyway. Mum decided I couldn't be trusted to return it, so she'd march back with it and return it herself. Then I'd borrow it again and read it all in one gulp before she could confiscate it. I don't remember exactly what about it was so offensive to my mum (she was super uptight about adult themes in books and had fits over the tamest of things) so I'm looking forward to rereading it and remembering.(less)
I both loved and hated this book. Really. I could give an impassioned argument as to why it's trite and shite, but could easily put it on my favourite...moreI both loved and hated this book. Really. I could give an impassioned argument as to why it's trite and shite, but could easily put it on my favourites shelf as well, yes, it was a confusing journey for me.
So, the positives; every time I had a spare moment, I looked forward to picking it up. I was never bored whilst reading it (though where that had something to do with the lack of depth, I don't know). I certainly don't regret reading it. Meno has a unique voice, whimsical perhaps. It reminded me a lot of the tv series 'Pushing Daisies', with it's somewhat stilted prose, stiff dialogue and eccentric plot. Another similarity to 'Pushing Daisies' was Meno's use of colour, it was peppered with blues, oranges - colour was everywhere.
For how whimsical this book was, I was surprised that even though I had my trusty pencil in hand, there was only paragraph that I underlined. Here it is, for those interested:
"Why is a mystery so terrifying to us as adults? Is it because our worlds have become worlds of routine and safety and order the older we've grown? Is it because we have learned the answer to everything and the answer is that there is never a secret passageway, a hidden treasure, or a note written in code to save us from our darkest moments? Why are we struggling so hard against believing there is a world we don't know? Is it more frightening to accept our lives as they are than it is to entertain a fantasy of hope?"
I thought I'd be underlining precious sentiments every few pages at least, but for all it's whimsy, I think it lacked heart. It lacked substance. It certainly lacked depth. I didn't love any of the characters, after an entire novel they still felt like sketches, though I thought little Ellie was quite punchy - his description of her was endearing (but at the same time made me squirm a little.)
"The boy detective stares at the soft, wrinkled dollar. He stares at her small open, palm, her weirdly round face, the white patch over one eye, the smashed glasses. He thinks he is staring at the picture of how his heart must look: small and sad and mashed."
For all the ativan that this dude popped, I expected some nice raw meltdowns, some description of panic or anxiety, some insight into his depression other than him rubbing at his scarred wrists on occasion. Maybe that's what made this book sweet though, it skipped the really nasty stuff and just played with the prettier things. Maybe reading this after I read a biography of Anne Sexton's was just a little too big a jump from real mental illness to makebelieve (funnily, she was on Thorazine most of her adult life, as was the main character in this novel - how different the depth of their madness).
I think, for me, it just teetered on the edge of being too sickly-sweet. I mean, the boy detective worked at "Mammoth Life Like Mustache International" (once again, something that I could see in a Pushing Daisies episode). I both loved this (because, well who doesn't love mustaches, and the whimsyfuck side of me does love this kind of thing), but it also just pushed me that little too far.
"The boy detective says his prayers and whispers goodnight to his owl alarm clock. He does - honestly, every night. He says it like this: "Good night father, goodnight mother, goodnight bedroom, goodnight Mr Owl Alarm Clock," like it is a first, middle and last name. He switches on the light and immediately it begins snowing. A soft white haze fills the room, as Billy, thinking about the lady in pink, soon falls asleep."
This is a grown man by the way. If you liked that paragraph, if it warmed the cockles of your little hipster heart, then perhaps you'll love this book. I think I would have loved it a lot more ten or more years ago. Perhaps when I wasn't coming off an Anne Sexton comedown. It's certainly a book that I'd recommend to the happier of my friends ... wait, do I have any? I'd want my kids to read it then when they were older, and hell, I'd be pretty happy if I could write a book anywhere near this endearing.
It was an incredibly sweet book and overall, an enjoyable read. I'd read more by Meno and I think if I wasn't such a cynical, depressive fuck that feeds off miserable novels, rather than charming ones - I would have rated it higher and not whined so much. Can you imagine how adorable Joe Meno would be in real life? I bet he totally wears sweaters and owl brooches and sups at honey-sweetened warm drinks in cosy cafes. I imagine his girlfriend would be like Zooey Deschanel, and they'd have little babies that smelled like cinnamon.
My strict (and back then, homophobic) mum had no idea this book had a gay dude in it. I think she realised eventually and was racked with the horrors...moreMy strict (and back then, homophobic) mum had no idea this book had a gay dude in it. I think she realised eventually and was racked with the horrors because I had already read it ten million times and loved it to bits. I think I actually went and saw Gleitzman talk for a book week event in primary school and it was at this event that I bought this book. I was constantly getting my hands on material that my mother deemed inappropriate. I don't know whether I did it intentionally or I just had a nose for the alternative, riskier, more interesting stuff. I do remember this book enlightening me to gay issues and firmly cementing my gay-rights mindset, much to the chagrin of my parents.(less)