Tuesday, May 15, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different. . . Part the Third (and Final)

The third book in my trio of reads-that-weren’t-anything-like-one-another-at-all was TWOC by Graham Joyce. Joyce has been writing adult fiction for years but this seems to be his first foray into young adult literature. It’s the first book of his I’ve read, and I know I will be seeking out more.

I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved this book.

Do you know what a twoccer is? It’s someone who hotwires and steals cars. Taken without owner’s consent, or TWOC. That’s a British term. (This book is full of British slang---with a handy glossary in the back for the really confusing bits---and as a hardcore Anglophile, I was thrilled.) The main character of this novel is sixteen-year-old, Matt, a twoccer who learned all the tricks of the trade from Jake, the older brother he idolizes. As the book starts, Jake is hanging around outside Matt’s bedroom window, trying to get Matt to acknowledge him. Matt doesn’t want to make eye contact because Jake is floating several stories off the ground, his mouth stuck to the window like a sucking fish. Jake, you see, is dead. When Matt, Jake, and Jake’s girlfriend, Jools, twocced a Ferrari one night, they had a terrible accident. Jake was killed, Jools was hideously disfigured, and Matt’s hands were badly burned.

Matt isn’t doing so well these days. Between ghostly visitations from Jake (who always comes dressed in some crazy get-up, the better to rattle his little brother) and the time he has to spend with his probation office (a woman whose beauty is marred by her distractingly unshaven legs) he’s got a lot of stress in his life, not to mention bitterness and guilt. When he’s sent on a therapy-based “vacation” with two other probation cases, things slowly begin to change as Matt comes closer and closer to admitting to himself the truth about the accident and his role in it.

I loved this book for two major reasons: the character of Matt, who is so vivid I felt like I could almost literally hear his voice as I read (but not literally, as I am not stark raving mad) and the book’s humor. My God, but this is a funny book. This book is unbelievably funny, considering the serious plot line. It kind of had to be to lighten the heaviness of the story. I just kept laughing out loud. Matt's humor can be black and bitter, but that just made me like it more. The timing of the humor is always perfect. The first person voice it's written in is absolutely perfect. I really liked Matt, despite the rather stupid things he'd done to get himself into probation in the first place. (I'm also now fascinated by the British probation system, which seems to include a lot of counseling as opposed to the American system, which has always seemed more punitive, though admittedly my experience with either system is non-existent.)

Another three thumbs up from me. I’m going to be recommending this a lot. And I am definitely nominating it for the mock Printz award discussions. (Note: It’s actually pretty amazing that I picked up this book in the first place. It has a car on the cover, for crying out loud. Yet somehow I picked it up and I am very glad that I did. The American version has the car picture while the British version—-I’m assuming that's the British version--—has the gearshift cover. Which do you like better?)

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