The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To - D.C. Pierson

I go to school, I want to say. What do any of us do? But I don't think that's the answer she's looking for. And the actual answer, that I am developing what is now a TV series culminating in a movie trilogy interspersed with books and graphic novels with any remaining holes in the epic filled in by a massively multiplayer online game, and my partner in this is my best friend who can't sleep and never has to—that answer I'm not ready to give yet.

This was a title that just jumped out and grabbed my attention when we were at Powell's back in March. I requested it at our library, and then hadn't gotten around to reading it for a while because of all the books I've been reviewing for GeekDad. But then I finally decided I needed a break from official review stuff and wanted to just read something for myself, on my own. It's probably the first adult fiction I've read in six months that's just something fun for myself.

Anyway, the story actually is about a high schooler who can't sleep. The narrator, Darren Bennett, is kind of a socially awkward kid. He likes to draw, but he has a very elaborate system for drawing so that other kids don't think he's gay, or dork, or something worse. One day he meets a classmate, Eric Lederer, and they quickly become friends. Together they work on this epic sci-fi tale that Darren has been concocting for some time, fleshing out characters and filling in backstories. It's incredibly geeky, but when there's two of you it feels less so.

At some point, Eric reveals that he doesn't sleep. In fact, he never has, and so his entire life has been one continuous wakeful moment. It requires a bit of convincing before Darren believes it, but then the idea of it turns his world upside down. Eventually, though, the secret is leaked and people come after Eric; he and Darren go into hiding. The way it turns out is a bizarre twist that I didn't see coming.

Pierson is particularly perceptive about what it feels like to be in high school. A lot of what happens in the book isn't typical real high school behavior, but it is the way you think about things. When a girl shows interest in Darren, it completely changes his attitude about things; later the heartache and rage after a breakup is torturous. The characters feel like real people, particularly the way Darren is figuring things out as he goes, gradually understanding what it's like to be himself and not just some persona that feels acceptable.

It's a little science-fiction-y but only parts of it, so I think it qualifies more as just fiction. It has some parts that reminded me a little of I Love You, Beth Cooper—mostly because of the awkwardness of high school, but played less for comedy in this case. If you were the sort of kid who doodled incessantly and created worlds in your head during high school, this book may be the perfect fit.

Oh, and in other news, it's not a how-to book. Unfortunately.

Fed to jonathan's brain | May 26, 2010 | Comments (0)


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