My cynicism has been known, from time to time, to get me into accidental trouble. I was especially cynical in groups, perhaps feeling that a witty cut-down about a stranger would earn me the respect and admiration of friends. This rarely worked. You can only act like a jerk so many times before people stop listening to you (p 47).
This is going to be a rather unfair review. I read this book after it won both the Morris Debut Author Award and the Printz Award. I was hoping Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt would win the Printz. This book is not Okay For Now and I am therefore going to unfairly compare it to Okay For Now.
I begin with the voice. Told with alternating points of view, those chapters told in first person from Cullen’s pov told about a boy who enjoys thinking up book titles and fantasizing about zombies. Doug Swieteck’s first person narration is so damn good (go to my earlier post “Road to the Newbery” to read more) that Cullen’s narration, while good, pales in comparison.
Then there are the third-person-pov chapters told first from Benton’s and then Cabot’s perspective. The link between Benton and Cullen is revealed at the book’s conclusion. While some refer to this as ‘complex,’ I thought it was unbelievable and served the plot. The characters were all over the place messed up. I could probably express this sentiment better but I don’t have the time and the book’s details are already fading from my mind.
The best aspect of the novel is its treatment of Gabriel’s disappearance. Gabriel is Cullen’s younger brother and a character I took issue with while he was present. Praise for Gabriel’s intellegence and uncanny abilities suffused the narration and yet Gabriel didn’t actually do anything that justified the praise… unless a literate teen who enjoys reading is supposed to be considered brilliant.
So, am I disappointed in the book? A bit. It’s a good book, but it’s not Okay For Now. In terms of literary quality, it sure isn’t The Isle of Blood. So I can only sit here and scratch my head and wonder how both those books were overlooked by the committee.