So, this brand new novel by debut author Tim Federle is about a teenager named Quinn who had a sister named Annabeth who got into a fatal car accident right before winter break six months ago and ever since, he and his mother have been alone, their only arguments being over "pepperoni or plain" and stacking up the electricity bills. And Quinn hasn't been in school since. His life is basically over. He wanted to be a filmmaker. He wishes he still wishes to be a filmmaker. He may end up signing up for college, but right now, the only job he feels like doing is installing a new air conditioner because of the hot weather of Pittsburgh. He's always up for a movie though. He has probably seen every "classic" film between The Wizard of Oz and the 1987 Robocop. What wakes him up from his torpor is one day, his friend Geoff takes him out for a party and Quinn meets a gay Iranian-American boy halfway through college named Amir, and the attention they end up giving each other gives Quinn happiness again. How much will that happiness go? Can Quinn say for certain that Amir loves him as much as he loves Amir?
Now, wow, I'll say that I love movies. Otherwise why would I have been blogging about them for two years? But I guess what sets Quinn and I different in this case is Quinn loves classics but doesn't like many animation movies while I have a very mixed opinion about The Shawshank Redemption. He uses a lot of movie puns during his regular explanations, something like "this is the biggest catastrophe since The Exorcist II in 1977." And even though I'm not going into film school right now, I really like the film business just like he does. At first, it sort of seemed like this was going to be another Gabe Johnson Takes Over but with a more grieving and derivative attitude. And at first, I wasn't really into the spirit of the book because it didn't seem to be taking off. Then about halfway through, I realized there are things in this world, or this life anyway, that I want to happen by the end.
Another thing I want to mention is I've come to notice there are actually a lot of books out there that have gay relationships, and I've actually tended to enjoy them because they are less predictable. But am I the only one who's gotten a little tired of "his tongue's in my mouth, I'm tasting him" kind of writing? I mean, I guess these authors have experience, and sometimes I get it, just it's sometimes distracting. Though this time it wasn't as bad. I was actually getting into it, even though from the cover and the movie references and hints in the short summary of the book on the dust jacket, I expected this to be a book about making a movie rather than being another Struck by Lightning tale.
But here are my two main flaws with this book that negated a positive rating, or a horrible rating for that matter. The first is I wish a bit more development was put into the mother. Her story is basically Quinn's story but she just seemed a carbon copy of the Struck by Lightning mother, stuck on the couch, devoid of any hope, always sleeping in. The other one is actually a little positive though. I sped through the last ninety pages, scared of what the book was going to do because at the rate it was going, I could give it an F grade or an A- grade, depending on how it ended, because it had a ton of story lines, as small as they were, that I wanted to see finish up, seeing as this is probably going to stay a standalone, and if not, these are the sort of story lines that probably won't get touched on in the sequel. It's that kind of book. So when it takes a turn that suggests it will go bad, it picks itself back up, I'm able to understand the ambitions of some characters more and more, but when it ended, I put the book down and I said to myself, "B, but...what about...why would..." I felt Tim Federle, just like The Forest, cuts off one thing vital, and concludes it early with a line that I just can't get my head around, a line that was as unbelievable as it was baffling. The book touched on and finished up most of its conflicts though, and threw in this surprise corkscrew late into the book which I enjoyed and didn't predict. But there's one thing he seemingly dismisses that was the most important element of the story, so this is a very conflictual final grade that bounced around for the whole third act. And as you now know, I cared about the outcome of this book, more than some books I've given the same grade to. So it's a little tough on me, my 2/4 grade. Read it if you like short novels and you remember what it was like to have a broken air conditioner in the middle of sizzling summer. And if you're a fan of AFI's 100 Best Movies List.
Here's a good summary of the book: There's a Goodreads critic named Emily May that I follow, who read this book saying her rating kept bouncing between a 4/5 and 2/5 before settling on a 3/5. Even though I tend to not quite agree with her, this is one of those times where those are my exact feelings.