Lisa Eckstein's Reviews > How to Buy a Love of Reading

How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson
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's review
Jul 03, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: read-2010, favorites
Read from December 08 to 20, 2010 — I own a copy

Carley's richy-rich parents believe there's something wrong with her because she's neither skinny nor Ivy League material. They decide that somehow the key to turning her life around is to make her into an enthusiastic reader by commissioning a novel written to her specifications.

Thanks to this premise, HOW TO BUY A LOVE OF READING spends some time on literary parody, with a bunch of discussion of meta-fiction and other amusing mentions such as "the just-released ANNIE GONE, a retelling of ANTIGONE through the eyes of a twelve-year-old trailer park denizen." But the book isn't really about the novel commission, even though that's what the title and description suggest. It's a story about a boy and a girl (with a secondary story about another boy and another girl), and it's about characters wrestling with issues that can't be fixed by literature. It's about the question of how many times people will forgive being hurt by the people they love.

Carley doesn't need a love of reading or anything that her parents can buy for her. She needs their attention, and if they'd only listen, they might find out she's a smart, caring person who isn't much interested in books because she has more pressing concerns. She'd really like to get some help for her best friend, because he has a serious substance abuse problem and equally inattentive parents.

I learned about this book when Tanya Egan Gibson came to my writing club to speak about world-building. I bought the book and read it because I liked her presentation, but I had no idea that I was going to find a story so much more complex and significant than the description reveals. I especially didn't suspect this novel to be practically what I would request if I were commissioning a novel. Sensitive but damaged male protagonist? Check. Kid characters? Check. Multiple perspectives, humor, texts within the text, narrative gimmicks, non-linearity... Some of these are even elements I didn't realize I'd include on my manifesto for a perfect novel. I'm not saying this is a perfect novel, but it does remarkably well at being exactly the sort of book I love to read. Since that mirrors the purported subject of the novel, I suspect Gibson of some sort of literary voodoo. If this is also the kind of book that enchants you, read HOW TO BUY A LOVE OF READING and fall in love.

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