Rebecca's Reviews > How to Write a Novel

How to Write a Novel by Melanie Sumner
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bookshelves: child-narrator, read-via-edelweiss, metafiction

“I am writing this novel to circumvent the bother and expense of therapy. I am writing this novel to make money so Diane can retire, Max can go to camp, and I can chill.” This would-be novelist is Aris (short for Aristotle) Thibodeau, 12.5 years old and as precocious as Flavia de Luce or your other favorite child narrator. Diane is her single mother, and Max her downright weird younger brother. Penn MacGuffin, their gruff nanny and PMI (positive male influence, that is) forms the final corner of this wonky family quadrilateral.

Using Write a Novel in 30 Days!, Aris is turning her family’s life story into fiction. In some ways they are very out of place here in Kanuga, Georgia (“a two-Walmart, no-Target town fuelled by fast food and tethered to heaven by a church on every corner”): Diane feeds the kids weird vegan food and tries to wriggle out of signing the statement of belief required by the Bible college where she teaches freshman English. With her more enlightened perspective, Diane sets out to save Charles Hutchins, her African-American writing protégé, from an unfair prison sentence he got for speeding.

This fight for justice provides a good narrative direction for a book that can otherwise seem a little aimless. Only three stars because, although I enjoyed Aris’s voice and her writing brainstorming sessions with Ms. Chu, the librarian, the metafictional aspect doesn’t work particularly well and there are a few things I think should have been explored some more, including the death of Aris and Max’s father, Joe, and Max’s behavioral problems.

The child’s wry look at family dysfunction reminded me of Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾. I would probably read something else from Sumner, so long as it wasn’t quite as silly and YA geared as this.
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Reading Progress

August 7, 2015 – Started Reading
August 7, 2015 – Shelved
August 7, 2015 – Shelved as: child-narrator
August 7, 2015 – Shelved as: read-via-edelweiss
August 20, 2015 – Shelved as: metafiction
August 20, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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Angela M Hmm , I was going to read this soon . Should I bother ?


Rebecca Well, that's up to you. Do you like child narrators? It's light-hearted and fairly enjoyable, but don't expect great things.


Angela M I do enjoy child narrators but I trust your judgement as well . I guess I'll think about it a bit more . Thanks , Rebecca.


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