It’s chapter one and you get Charlie’s funeral and, through Vera, a very startling image of this said individual and his habit of scribbling stuff down on paper, popping it in his mouth, and chewing it. See, he’s not exactly six feet under, at least not where Vera’s concerned: he’s haunting her. Vera, the best friend who’s always loved him, as-of-late hated him, and who lost him twice: once to Jenny Flick (which might have something to do with recent animosity…) and the second time to God, if you believe that sorta thing. Things weren’t very settled when he kicked the bucket, and now they’re even less so.
Because Vera witnessed something that changes the entire circumstances of his untimely demise. Something that exonerates him from the hideous actions directly preceding his death, actions attributed to him. She’s keeping it a secret for now—but he won’t let her forget it.
Did you know this novel sold at auction? Did you know that A LOT OF PUBLISHERS were involved in said auction? Did you know everyone wants a bit of A.S. King?
As much of a rarity as that, in and of itself, is in publishing, did you know it’s even rarer to find a gem of these proportions?
See, Ms King didn’t just spin a new weepy tale about a girl (just like you and me) coming to terms with her best friend’s death and growing as a person and blah blah blah. She created characters that came alive, situations that felt very much real, and did so in writing that is just quirkily poignant, poignantly quirky, seesawing between the two (trust me, there is a difference).
Aside from the superb narrative, we have these very realistic characters. There’s Vera, who comes alive in her vulnerable way, someone trying to do the right thing but finding fault lines along the way and lapsing in judgment like any human being. There are her next-door neighbors—the man who’s just TERRIBLE and I’ll tell you what, we would struggle to find a human being more petty than he is. There’s the pizza delivery technician gig that serves as a base for a lot of anecdotal moments.
There are flow charts!!
Most importantly, there’s how Ms King handled the grief. Charlie, in his haunting, is present to us and we can see how tragic these two were—how they made such terrible mistakes that, because of what happened, can never be fixed, which makes them even worse.
And then there are a whole lot of other surprises. It’s kind of hard to account for it all and still be done in time for…well, the rest of life, I suppose (it’s a hyperbole! I’m quite hyper trying to cram all this detail in here to make you want to read this!), so I’ll leave you to it.
The one thing I was not very fond of was the whole James fiasco. I thought the novel was strong enough without it, and the way things worked out in the end… But, ya know, that’s a personal quibble.
A fangirling sort of novel!
And yes, A.S. King is a friend. Yup, she is, she is. Just when you think you know the meaning of awesome, she goes and reinvents it. She’s an amazing person and I won’t keep the fact I think of her as such a secret. If I didn’t love her book I wouldn’t be reviewing it because a) that’s not what she deserves, b) I’m not like that (take my word for it, or check through two years’ worth of archives) and c) this is not what this space is about. I feel confident enough about that to post this very positive review of her work. Especially since there’s the fact she’s been doing this, oh, for almost two decades, her books are all going into auctions, and—oh yeah—she has like a gazillion stars for this one (count ’em—Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly…). Also, ELLEN HOPKINS blurbed it.
So, yes, A.S. King is certified in that she ROCKS.
Knopf (Random House) | October 12th, 2010, | 326 pages | GoodReads | IndieBound | Book Depository | Amazon
(Source: the author)
Sunday, December 26, 2010