I wasn't sure if this book held together. I'm still not. It consists of the first part in which our hero is an amusing and extremely annoying 16-year-old slacker who couldn't give a shit. Then he starts to lose his mind due to Mad Cow disease, and a new world opens up to him. All the coincidences and strange events -- pretty clearly he's not in our world.
So there are the two parts and the coincidences and bizarre events of that other place had the feel of a made-for-tv movie. There's a wishing tree and the bad guys are standard bad guy symbols and the bits and pieces he drags in from his own life....well, actually they are okay.
Here's the thing though. Even though I can see the issues and problems, I loved the book. I listened to it on tape and it had a good reader (though he didn't often sound 16) The voice of the narrator sounded like my boys-- who're all about that age or near enough (14, 17 and 20). The language was rough for most parents but not at all for guys that age.
Did I mention I loved the book?
I'm trying to figure out why I loved it when I could see the issues that keep it from being slick and perfect and, even, occasionally flat. The message-y stuff was occasionally annoying but, on the other hand, it was pretty low key for a YA book. That character needed some redemption. Even he laughs at himself when he gets to the end and is challenged with the question of "What did you learn?" and his answer is something like a hallmark card slogan.
And if most of the other characters were symbols instead of real, well....they weren't reality, after all.
Part of the reason it worked for me is personal. That whole reality Cameron creates in his poor spongy brain is more than real to him (not to us) and this alternative world is something I've experienced before. Bad anesthesia during or after an operation left me with images that were far more vivid and contained stronger emotion than real life -- for quite a while after. The whole of time was awesomely odd then.
Anyway. The story evoked my own strange legal-drug hallucinations and its flash-backs. I could relate to the nightmare feeling that the universe is out to get me/him/whoever and the fact that it was solved in the story gave me a strange sort of coming-to-terms with that part of life.
The big question of is it real or not isn't answered. Thank god.
There's the little chapter one added on at the very end. It felt tacked on a bit and too neat (a full circle to the first part of the story). I wonder if the book would have been better without it, but it would have been entirely sad without the addition and ummmmmm frankly I sniveled and wept enough without it. Honestly, I'm not sure why I sniveled and wept so much. Must be hormones. And if it hadn't been added, then the big question might have been answered. So maybe I did like it. I don't know.
I might have to get the book in print to see if it works me in that form. I know even if I don't get the teary snuffles, I'll still think it's a amazing effort and I am glad I stumbled over it. I bet I'll still be impressed by it and the author's voice. There were occasional moments of brilliance, when she really did show something in a new light--a sort of writing I haven't read in a long, long time.
I had sort of avoided her books before, but not any more.