Not a Book Review (Well, okay, it kind of is)

Sometimes picking a book based on its interesting title and fun cover works out well. Really great, in fact. Sometimes it doesn’t. This time it was of the second variety.

Grab On To Me Tightly As If I Knew The Way by Bryan Charles

This isn’t a book review because I didn’t finish reading the book. I don’t do that very often – stop in the middle and never return – but sometimes I just feel like I’m wasting my time. My first sign that this novel might not be what I hoped was the language. Now, here’s the thing: although I very, very, rarely swear in real life and I don’t like hearing swear words from those around me, I don’t necessarily mind it in fiction. I have written fiction where a character swears. I take swearing in fiction seriously; I believe it has to be authentic to the character and it has to express something of that person that can’t be expressed in any other way. I don’t believe in swearing for swearing’s sake or for shock value. Because I don’t go around throwing down F-bombs in my own life, I try and think carefully whether or not it’s something necessary in fiction. Sometimes, I think, it is. (You may disagree with me here. That’s fair.) What I don’t like and what will turn me off a story is superfluous swearing. And when you use one of the most offensive swear words there is in the first ten pages of your novel, I don’t see what purpose it has and I don’t want to keep reading. In order to not judge the book unfairly though, I did keep reading. I got about halfway through. The writing itself is not bad. I did get confused about some of the time frame – what I thought was a continuous scene turned out to be two separate days – but I trust that many of those problems would have been explained had I kept reading. The musical references and the early 1990s setting were interesting and I particularly enjoyed how the author would slip in lyrics from songs that our narrator was listening to/thinking of/playing on his guitar. The novel is written in first person which leads to a few stream-of-consciousness style parts which, though never my favourite, were decently well done. Over all though the novel had this Generation X trying to be Holden Caulfield feel that just wasn’t working for me. The best I can say is that this book felt self-indulgent. It was a hipster in novel form – dropping names and judging me for not knowing them. Throwing out swear words to see if my jaw drops. Every character surrounding our narrator seemed like a caricature (at least to the halfway point of the book) and the narrator himself lacked motivation. Most of the book seems to take place in his head and yet even there he reveals very little of what he actually thinks, how he feels. The novel never broke through that teenage boy tough guy veneer, never showed who this kid really was. I’ve hung around guys like that and the joy of being an adult now is that I don’t have to hang around them anymore. So I closed the book and took it back to the library.

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