Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What is Real: An Edgy & Surreal Teen Read

Seventeen-year-old Dex Pratt, a star basketball player and budding filmmaker has had his life turned upside down. His mother has re-married, his father tried to commit suicide, failed and is wheelchair bound, and now Dex has had to move back to his small B.C. town to care for him. When he gets there, he finds everything has changed beyond recognition. Gone is the house, the cars, the fancy bikes and the toys. They've been replaced with a rotting rented house on the back of a cornfield. His father too has changed. He's given up his law practice, and instead of defending marijuana growers, he has become one. Unable to cope, Dex smokes himself into a state of surrealism, and begins to lose touch with reality, causing him to finally question: What is real?

Firstly, I'll say I love Karen Rivers' YA material, and I don't think I've read something that makes use of this kind of storytelling recently. Told from Dex's point of view, he narrates with blunt, stream-of-conciousness style, often interrupting with flashback movie scenes from a director's perspective. The flashbacks fill in the details of what Dex doesn't tell you, but his own perceptions of reality and fantasy are so blurred, it can be difficult to tell whether or not it is true. In fact Dex is the epitome of the unreliable narrator, frequently contradicting himself or outright lying. What I find interesting is that they are directed more at Dex himself than the reader. I got the sense that Dex was constantly revising and reconstructing his life, trying to form it into a believable fiction that he can live with. There are a lot of things that Dex will tell you, and a lot of things he won't, and making sense of how the pieces fit together is part of the challenge of this book

The secondary characters are far less developed, but since Dex is telling the story, I'm ok with this.  These people may or may not even exist, and if they do, readers only see them through a drug-induced distored view. Yes, they all impact his life in different ways good and bad, but they are more like the blurred images of people that we sometimes see in our dreams than concrete characters.

This isn't an easy book to read in the literal or emotional sense. Time jumps around in Dex's mind, and therefore isn't a linear plot. There is also liberal drug use and a great deal of swearing, which makes it more ideal for older teen readers. Emotionally, Karen Rivers challenges readers to think about their own perceptions of reality, to think about the validity and reliabilty of memory, and most of all, to ask the question that makes up the title of this book- what is real?