Thursday, July 26, 2012
And so Jason, on a lark, decides to create a religion based on the local water tower. At first, it is great fun and he enlists several friends to join him. They develop a scripture, mock rituals, and offices. They climb the tower itself to hold "mass." But things get out of hand as people start to take things too seriously.
The idea is clever and Hautman tries to make some observations about youthful religious doubt, but I never got fully engaged in the story. At times, Jason can be funny and even sympathetic, but overall he's limited. The characters do some goofy stuff, but don't grow enough to provide the payoff for readers to pay attention to their searches. Jason himself ends up pretty much the same doubter he was in the beginning.
There are minor adventures along the way and the book has nice period detail. Written in the form of a diary, without any attempt to form a true narrative arc, the story lacks much of a plot beyond serial episodes. The characters are not really developed either. Even Rose, the diary's author, never really reveals very much about herself.
At only 200 pages and very large type, the story certainly had room for expansion and for us to learn more about these people. Whether Rinaldi avoids that out of a desire to not embellish too much on her ancestors or for some other reason, the trials of adapting to a new life in New York is largely left unsaid (even though petty issues are certainly mentioned). The overall effect is like having a conversation with a taciturn grandmother, neatly glossing over details in her golden years. One wishes that there was more to the story.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
While Mary struggles with whether to obey and stay within the safety of her town's walls, events overshadow her doubts, beginning with the arrival of a stranger to the town. With the presence of an outsider, Mary is certain that there really must be something in the forest and beyond. And when a catastrophe befalls the town, Mary and a small group of friends are forced to flee and find out.
In all, it's a post-apocalyptic zombie adventure with a romantic triangle thrown in (Twilight meets I Am Legend). It's not high literature, the plotting is messy, and the writing a bit too dense, but the pages turn quickly. Don't get too attached to the romantic thread or any of Mary's struggles with coming-of-age, because no character development is really as important as moving this story along at a brisk pace.
Friday, July 13, 2012
Pederson has a knack for creating interesting and memorable characters (the primate who mixes his own drinks is particularly bizarre). They never stop surprising you. The story, however suffers from literary ADHD. Things happen and then new things happen, but often just completely out of the blue. And key plot lines, like Hallie's gambling or her desire to be emancipated from her parents just get dropped and forgotten about in favor of something shinier. The result is a series of funny and insightful vignettes. In their accumulation, these are probably supposed to relay a deeper meaning, but it just seems like rambling that Pederson arbitrarily decides at some point to end.