Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Since Monday, I've been reading PART 3: THE SILO, which began with the un-titled not-chapter pictured above. I then read these parts of the book: A TOUGH DAY AT CURTIS CRANE LUTHERAN ACADEMY • BUGS DO TWO THINGS • A GIFT FROM JOHNNY MCKEON • SHANN CALLS • MY MOM'S LITTLE BLUE KAYAKS • PAGES FROM HISTORY • SCHOOL PRAYERS • THE VICE PRESIDENT'S BALLS • MODERN-DAY NIGHTINGALES • SHANN, THE HORNY POLISH KID, AND SATAN
I'm not going to share any of the great lines from these sections. Not because there aren't any (there are), but because I want to talk about the hardest part of this book.
Andrew Smith's books are all the same. Oh, they have different plots. A lens that takes you to another universe, wrangling horses and mountain lions, chasing after your brother (whether he was your little brother, and ran away with a psychopath, or was your older brother, and escaped the tortures of your familial home by himself), but they're all really about the same thing. Deep studies of character, and of relationships.
A friend of mine, Sarah Fine, who is a psychologist and an author, once blogged about characters, and relationships, and I'm paraphrasing here, but she referred to how the key of what she loved about relationships was the space between two people. I might go a little further. In a book, in fiction, when it's done well, a relationship, the space between two characters, can almost become a character of its own. A third, somewhat nebulous entity, whose arc can be followed independently.
In GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, the two main characters are Austin and his best friend, Robby. Their relationship is one of the saddest and most beautiful things I have ever read about. Austin and Robby love each other very much. They are also teenage boys, so they are horny and confused and they do stupid things, to themselves, to each other, and to other people. This is what teenage boys do. I would even argue this is what teenage boys need to do. You need to make mistakes, to test the limits, to define the borders, to know your strengths and weaknesses, in order to become a man.
Not that GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is about becoming men. It's not. It's about the end of the world. And history. But relationships are kind of about growing up. They're about learning about ourselves, and our fellow human beings. Austin and Robby keep doing dumber and dumber shit, but they love each other, and their brotherhood is a beautiful thing to behold, and my very, absolute favorite thing about this book, even if it's also the hardest thing not to cry about.
GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE drops in less than a week (next Tuesday, in the US) and you can pre-order it from (and I highly recommend you do):