Friday, September 16, 2016

Fiction Friday (45)

As reported last week, I'm returning with a Fiction Friday post for the second week in a row. This week's entry represents the first novel about disturbed teens that I've read in quite some time. There was a period when I devoured novels like this, but moved away from them when I started writing novels like this. This type of novel also became popular over the last decade, and often came poorly written and generally unauthentic. I was attracted to this one based on the Nick Cave quote that appears on the cover, because Nick Cave has written two amazing books and should know what he's talking about. I'm happy to report that this one definitely felt authentic. Enjoy.

Lolito by Ben Brooks
(Regan Arts, 2013)

Despite the quote on the cover from Nick Cave, or the reviews on the back that refer to this book as "shocking", "disturbing," and "most horrible", this novel is not nearly as controversial as it has been made out to be. In the world of YA lit of the past decade an a half, it would certainly fall into the "edgy" category, but it wasn't even published in that genre, but rather as an adult novel. In actuality, it would probably be better marketed to the teen audience given the 15 year main character and its central themes of adolescence. I think it would certainly speak to that audience, and certainly addresses issues that apply to them.

What I liked about this novel was the authentic portrayal of insecurity felt by a fifteen year boy. At that age, I often felt like Etgar. His confusion, his anxiety, his sporadic lack of self-confidence, his fear of the world and people in the world, and his constant desire for safety and escape were all things that I identified with, and aspects of characters that I've written. I applaud the book for writing a teenage boy with these characteristics, because too often it's thought that "boys are not that way." I know I've encountered that criticism in my own work, which is nonsense. Boys, like everybody else, are often confused about everything at that age and Ben Brooks does an amazing job at illustrating that point.

I also enjoyed the writing style. The near stream of consciousness style adds to Etgar's characteristics. It makes him more authentic. I could've done without a lot of the Pop culture references, simply because it's not something that appeals to me. I've never felt that Pop culture references add anything to a novel. If anything, it creates judgements on characters that aren't necessary, and besides that, they age very quickly.

A very quick read, and one that is thought-provoking, for no other reason than it doesn't do anything to counter the popular perception that somehow a heterosexual relationship between a 40 year old woman and 15 year boy is somehow okay, even though if the sexes were transposed, it wouldn't be. The reader is left wondering if Etgar is really a victim. If so, then why the popular perception? If not, then why wouldn't it be the same the other way around? Ben Brooks puts that question in the face of the reader without being obvious about it. Right or wrong, the fact is that there is a hypocrisy when it comes to societal views on the subject and the story forces one to the think about why that is.

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