Monday, April 21, 2014

If I Ever Get Out of Here

If I Ever Get Out of Here
(Image from its goodreads page)
Eric Gansworth

If I Ever Get Out of Here is the quintessential coming of age story. Dying dogs and overly-soppy first crush not included.

(The following description is from goodreads. Accept that I'm not always creative.) Lewis "Shoe" Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he's not used to is white people being nice to him -- people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family's poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan's side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis's home -- will he still be his friend?

I want you to know that I generally don't like coming of age stories. They always have the same themes with the same resolution and the same friggn' copy-paste character over and over and over and over...

Well, If I Ever Get Out of Here was... decent! More than decent! Possibly (much) better than Old Yeller. Though the last one might be because I hate Old Yeller.

I'm going to give a moment to gush. Oh my God. Middle schoolers that talk like middle schoolers instead of third graders. If you didn't know that was a problem, you don't read middle grade fiction. Sevvies swear and have screwed up not-quite-dating stunts. People need to stop pretending like they don't. 

Another misconception this book spectacularly says "No, that's not how this works" to. That idea relates to Maslow's pyramid of human needs. Here, I'm going to show you my version of it.

The thing is that if you lose one of those, everything above it ceases to be a problem. Don't like people? Well, you can't like yourself either, you selfish jerk. Can't eat? You better not be worrying about your family, because that's way higher on my nice triangle thing. Everyone is like, "Yup, that is most certainly human condition. 100000% of people feel this way." But, like with Lord of the Flies, this is not correct.

Back on the book (but relating to the pyramid), Lewis does not have security in money. However, he still cares about everything about the second tier. Which I think is wonderful. Also, it's the plot of the story, but, still, wonderful. I've read a number of "deep" books (written by people who have absolutely no idea about the problem they're writing about) that completely follow Maslow in his thinking. You know what that leads to? Boring, flat characters. 

Okay, the point I'm trying to make is that Lewis was a really cool character to read and I'm glad I read a book that actually kind of gets human condition. I'd almost qualify it for deep-without-the-scare-quotes. Not in a John Green kind of deep way, but Out of the Easy kind of deep, where it's important and deep without a bunch of metaphors and such. I... I'm going to assume you understand what I'm trying to say.

I also loved how the author wrote friendships like friendships actually work. You know, you talk non-stop for three months and then suddenly start avoiding each other for reasons. You're super close on some things, but others are secrets to be kept. Friendship is not a line. It's a bunch of lines. A lovely, liney story.

A comment I have to make because I enjoy ruining otherwise awesome books: I feel like the bullying parts of it were a little unrealistic? I'm not sure, bullying has never really been a problem for me, so I'm probably wrong. But the circumstances leading to how severe everything was were just a little too specific. Like, the individual things that compile into the events make enough sense on their own (Evan is a raging racist, the teachers are raging racists, Evan's a pretty easy target in the scheme of things, etc.). All together, though, it feels kind of overwhelming. 
Overall, I loved this book way more than I've shown it. Great book, would definitely recommend it.
Wait, quick! How many coming-of-age books have no romance/crushes for the main character? One. Or, one that I know of. And that one is this one. I find this to be new and exciting territory. Thank you, Mr. Gansworth, for not throwing that COA story trope in just to conform to the horribly overused norm.

~ Corinne

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