Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Once Again, Saved By A Character
Before I start in sounding all hypercritical about Notes From the Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin, I'm going to say right away that I enjoyed reading the book. And I enjoyed reading the book because I liked the male protagonist, Declan. He's probably a bit of a teen outsider, wiseass cliche, but that happens to be a cliche I like when the teen outsider, wiseass cliche is funny in a funny-that-works sort of way.
Notes From The Blender is about two teenagers, Declan and Neilly, from different rungs of the school social hierarchy who are thrown together when they find out that their parents are getting married. Let's put that differently...they find out that their parents have to get married in that Declan's dad knocked up Neilly's mom. In my humble opinion, that is a situation filled with comic potential. Their story is told from their points of view in alternating first person chapters. Think Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.
Personally, though, I didn't find Neilly anywhere near as strong or well-defined a character as Declan. Is she a "badass," which Declan would really, really like, or is she the cliched popular girl done to death in teen lit and movies? We're supposed to think she's something more than the jock's girlfriend she appears to be because her dad is gay, and after he left her mother and came out, she had to battle to defend him and herself from various classmates. But that's all in the past, so we never see her on the ramparts over terrific Gay Dad's honor.
Now Neilly's got her knickers in a twist over her mom being pregnant, when Neilly didn't even know she was going out with anyone, and having to give up her home and move in with this strange guy and his son. That is an understandably distressing situation. But compared to her father turning out to be gay and becoming engaged to his terrific law partner?
I just didn't believe a lot of the situations here. I didn't believe that beautiful, popular Neilly would bond with porn-loving, self-lover Declan so incredibly rapidly, even though they both share the same bizarre situation. While I respect the authors sending so many teen characters to a church youth group, because I don't see a lot of religious observance in YA, I find these kids' willingness to belong to such a group another unbelievable factor, even if the minister of the Unitarian church in question is Declan's lesbian aunt. Having known a family that dealt with a dad realizing he's gay (after having five kids with his wife--seriously), I found the relative ease with which Neilly and her mother accepted her father's new-to-them sexual orientation...romanticized, I guess I'd call it. We hear of another family that took a father's coming out much differently, which seemed to be an attempt to give a more balanced treatment of how people respond to these situations. But it didn't change the fact that Neilly and her mother were way cool with their family breaking up.
And, finally, this is kind of a message book--drinking and drugs are bad and everyone should be free to love who they love. Good messages, of course, and they're accompanied with plenty of coarse language to help make them less preachy. But, still, a message kind of breaks up the world of a story.
But then there is Declan, breaking down in tears over his dead mom when he isn't lusting after Neilly...or the math girl...or the therapist his father takes him to see. He is both foul-mouthed and sweet, funny and sad, someone who ought to be a victim in the traditional high school world, but definitely isn't. Declan totally makes Notes From The Blender.