Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review: "The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To", by D C Pierson

The other day when I was at the library, I picked a book up off the shelf because it had such an improbable title: The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To (2010, Vintage Books/Random House; 226 pages). How was I supposed to resist a title like that?

Maybe that was author D C Pierson's strategy in picking the title. If it was, it was a good approach. It also describes the premise of the book quite well. Eric Lederer is a high school student, one of those who a lot of the rest of the students at his school have pegged as mostly likely to shoot the school up. He's a loner, a geek who is probably a little too intelligent for his own good. He just doesn't fit in. But, one day he approaches Darren Bennett, another student, the become fast friends, and Eric soon confesses that he doesn't sleep.

Of course, Darren's first reaction is what most of ours would be: so, don't drink so much caffeine. To which Eric's response is something along the lines of, "Dude, you don't understand..." Soon, the two boys are planning a multi-film epic that will be tied together with comic books and video games and, inevitably, a television series.

But, the course of true friendship and entertainment-moguldom is never an easy path, and...stuff happens. It would be unfair to say more.

Pierson is a good young writer, who has claimed J. D. Salinger as one of his influences. As far as I'm concerned, he has written a much better book than anything I've ever read of Salinger's. I find Salinger's work unpleasant and his characters (principally Holden Caulfield) impossible to like or to sympathize with. On the other hand, Pierson has created in Eric and Darren two characters who do stupid things, sometimes colossally stupid things, and sometimes mean things. There were a couple of points while reading the book where I would have cheerfully throttled both of them. But I continued to like them and to pull for them to work it all out.

I like this book more than I like most novels that are meant to be literary, rather than genre, works. And, The Boy... was clearly meant to be a literary novel. But deep down, this is a fantasy novel, and I like it all the more for that.

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