Scott's Reviews > The House of Tomorrow

The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
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's review
Mar 07, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: adult-books, realistic, older-teens, first-half-of-2010, 2010
Read in May, 2010

Ok. Ok. Where to start. Well, since a lot of the GoodReads friends liked this book, I guess I am sorry that I didn't. Of course, high expectations lead to bigger disappointments, so really you all should be apologizing to me. Just kidding. I finished this over a week ago and have been ruminating over how I feel about it. I’ve vacillated between love and hate. And it boils down to this . . . maybe if I didn't have high hopes, maybe if it had chosen Heavy Metal (or really any kind of music) over punk, maybe if I hadn't just read The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To, maybe I would have liked it more, or appreciated it, at least.
First things first, when I began reading this book, I was underwhelmed. Then I started to get into it, Sebastian is an interesting character (he's grown up in a geodesic dome with his Buckminster Fuller loving Grandma his entire life.) Then his grandma had a stroke and I thought, "Oh, interesting." I thought that because he had been homeschooled and had never been "introduced" to society outside of Buckminster Fuller's futurism. I thought this is going to get good. It didn't. Or, to be more specific, it didn't for me. Again, I am in the minority with my lukewarm feelings toward it.
So let me get into why I felt, you know, meh.
First, Peter Bognanni is a fine writer. I read the book and never did I think, "This guy is NOT a good writer." As a matter of fact, all I could think was, "this is good writing." But I was always aware that it was written. It felt clinical, like he teaches creative writing classes (he does) and that this is just an exercise in good writing. Sebastian, the narrator, has a very distinct voice, but, for me, he doesn't have his own voice. It is Bognanni's voice being channeled through this quirky character that Bognanni came up with. It was a quick read, but I never got lost in the story or the characters. I never connected with them.
The story never got me either. It seemed done; and done better in hundreds of YA titles. Quirky kid meets angry kid, they form a band, and they triumph with their DIY punk rock attitude. There wasn't anything original presented in the formula, besides having the quirky kid grow up in a geodesic dome. But I never felt that Bognanni spent the time to develop the characters outside of their quirks, which is a huge problem for me. Writers like Bognanni, Diablo Cody, and JK Rowling seem to mistake quirkiness for character development. Even when their characters grow, it is only on the shallowest level. Maybe a one-dimensional character becomes two-dimensional. They are never fully fleshed out or fully realized, and they never grow beyond quirksville.
Next, books with punk music always annoy me. They show their true colors pretty early. Basically, any book with punk rock is trying to prove its edginess and that its characters are tough or wounded and they don't give a F*** about anything. However, generally they come across like the author got a "Totally Effing Punk" sampler CD from The Gap. These are the penultimate punk bands that prove that someone is indeed punk. However, everyone listens to these bands, thus making them the opposite of punk rock. Anyone who thinks they're punk has a Misfits sticker somewhere. My parents listen to The Ramones, because they are a great pop band. And the Sex Pistols? Jeez, Bognanni must have Wikipediaed "Punk Rock Music." I do give him some points for including Minor Threat. But, his punk bands are so blasé and mainstream that they lose him major street cred. He still could have kept it mainstream and added some credibility to his characters, because I don't know a punk rock kid who only listens to late 70's/early 80's punk. It's just not realistic to have a kid today who only listens to that stuff. They'd probably also spin some Rancid, Bad Religion, NOFX, Guttermouth, The Vandals, etc. He could Wikipedia those bands too. They'd also probably listen to Op Ivy, and I can't remember if The Clash is brought up, but they'd be there too. And if he really wanted street cred, Joy Division, which were like the really ultimate punk band.
Basically it boils down to this . . . I never bought into or cared about these characters so I never invested myself in The House of Tomorrow. It is a quick read though and most other people like it. I didn't HATE it, I just don't really recommend it, or I do so with hesitation.


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05/09/2010 page 37
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