Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

When packing for the beach the weekend before last, I threw in a couple of YA novels since I owned them in paperback and it wouldn't be the end of the world if they got a little sandy or gooey from s'mores.  After finishing The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (a library book, but I read it in the car on the way down to avoid messing it up at the beach), I felt like I need a break.  One can only take war and genocide (even of aliens) for so long before needing some lighter fare.  Not to say I'm not enjoying the Chaos Walking Trilogy--I definitely am--but for me, it requires some decompression time between books.

So, after building the ultimate sand castle and chasing my 16 month old while she chased a beach ball, I fell back into my beach chair and cracked open an already dog-eared, used copy of Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas.

Okay, so fair warning, spoilers are going to abound here as I lay out my issues with this book. (Obviously I got over my previous concerns about posting a negative review. Hopefully, I don't alienate all three of my readers!).

I definitely enjoyed this book for what it was.  Typical coming-of-age story of a teenage boy dealing with divorced parents, first love, first heartache yada yada yada.  Probably teens today would find it quite dated, but the protagonist was only a few years ahead of me and I totally remember flannel, doc martins, grunge, and Kurt Cobain's suicide.

Steve is a senior in high school in San Diego and a stoner who is barely passing his classes. However, as a sophomore in Houston he was doing fine.  A counselor tells him he can pass his English class (which he needs to graduate) if he writes 100 pages.  So, we end up switching between current time and diary-like entries where we find out about him and his buddies (members of GOD--the Grace Order of the Dadaists), his relationship--if you can call it that--with his father (a.k.a. the Astronaut) and his relationship with Wanda (a.k.a. Dub).  We know that something happens to turn his world upside-down, but don't find out what it is until the end of the book.

Of course, no real surprise here, the life-changing event is when Dub breaks his heart.  But the thing is, she does it by sleeping with their high school creative writing teacher.   Excuse me???  A seventeen year old girl taken advantage of by her high school teacher?  I can handle two teenagers having sex. . .definitely wouldn't be a choice I'd want my daughters to make. . .but I don't have a problem with it in literature.  Moreover, the underage drinking and pot smoking are not something I want my girls to engage in, but kids do dumb things, often as the result of having parents who aren't involved in their lives.  But, an adult preying on a kid?  And we only get a page or two of Steve seeing her car at the teacher's house and candles lit in his bedroom and that's it.  No recriminations, no consequences, no knowledge of whether or not Dub is okay (because we end up truly caring about her through Steve).  Just, she broke Steve's heart by sleeping with someone else. Teen girls are so defenseless at this age and that teacher must have knowingly manipulated her with his praise and interest in her.  I know this wasn't Dub's story, but you can't just throw a detail like this in without some more development. All we get is, "she betrayed me" <sob sob>. 

So, while this book was well-written (in fact Rob Thomas went on to create Veronica Mars), it left a really bad taste in my mouth.  Probably just another case of having kids screwing up my reading life.  I wanted to go rip that teacher's eyes out.  In fact, my husband just looked up and asked me what I'm writing because I'm typing so furiously.

<I got this book from Paperback Swap several years ago.>

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