Monday 9 November 2009

Review: Rats Saw God / Rob Thomas

Summary - In order to pass English class and graduate, 18-year-old Steve York has to write a 100- page essay about his life. What sounds like a run-of-the-mill writing assignment, however, becomes an excuse for Steve to reflect on the last four years (from Texas freshman to California senior), and figure out where it all went wrong. Maybe it was when he discovered that he really couldn't relate to his father, the Famous Astronaut. Or it could be because his "heart had been run through frappé, puree, and liquefy on a love blender" by his ex-girlfriend, Wanda "Dub" Varner. No matter where the finger of blame ends up pointing, it's a wild ride of self-enlightenment as Steve discovers that not all relationships are permanent, and that some--like the one with his dad--can be mended with a little work.

Review - When Veronica Mars first burst onto my radar I had no idea that the creator existed previously as a YA author. Rob Thomas published a few novels before realising that he could make more money in television, going on to write for early seasons of Dawson’s Creek, the Melissa Joan Hart/Adrian Grenier movie Drive Me Crazy, Cupid and eventually Veronica Mars. The man had wit and spunk a-plenty and we all fell in love with the acidic pixie detective with mad investigating skills.

But enough of Veronica, let’s talk about Rat Saw God. Split into two time frames, Steve’s sophomore and senior years of high school, we see his descent from offbeat, responsible student into a perpetually stoned, frequently absent, apathetic nobody. We’ve all read stories about girls falling in love and then having their heart snapped cleanly in two, yet in this scenario we see a guy travail the same high wire. Thomas has deftly created a world that’s delightfully quirky, grounded and at times dark.

Challenged to write about anything at all by his guidance counsellor, Steve chooses to detail his fall from grace in order to graduate at the end of the year. We learn of his non-existent relationship with his father, the formation of the GOD group, love with Dub and finally to the moment where he snaps and makes a huge life change. It’s reflective and introspective. Observant and dry. Compelling, intriguing and deep in its exploration of people and their motivations, Thomas has created a very real world of hurt and second chances.

It’s a pity that Thomas gave YA away as he clearly was a talented writer. His social commentary in particular is striking as it’s obviously something that infuses all of his work whatever the medium. Whether it’s the frivolity, bitterness or the naiveté of youth, he writes with an objective eye and a realisation that endings don’t always need to be tied up with a bow. Sometimes, the journey is the most exciting part.

Format: Hardback, 202 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source of Review Copy: borrowed
Origin: USA
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poshdeluxe @foreveryoungadult said...

i've been meaning to read this book for YEARS, and, thank to yr review, i might actually get around to it!

as a fellow veronica groupie, i always wished that rob thomas had gone back to writing YA books. like, maybe even before writing the third season of VM, cos it was, um, kind of bad?

honestly, veronica mars would've made a KILLER YA series. oh piz, i miss you.

Shalonda said...

Like Poshdeluxe said, this book has been on my wishlist for years--long before I started reading blogs or even knew anyone would be willing to discuss YA novels with me!

I had no idea this was the same Rob Thomas. How awesome and amazingly talented is he?!?!

The Book Owl said...

Great review. I'd never heard of this before now.

スタービーチ said...