Showing posts with label Lisa Graff. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lisa Graff. Show all posts

Monday, October 8, 2018

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

Rating: WARTY!

This was a middle grade story that was way too young for me. I suspect it may be too young for many in middle grade. It was an audiobook indifferently read by Noah Galvin, and it was far too boring to hold my interest. I can barely remember the story because it made so little impression on me and I listened to so little of it.

The main character is a fifth-grade student named Albin, and goes by Albie. That should tell you the kind of juvenile approach the story takes. It would have been hilarious if the reader had done his voice as a chipmunk. But to be kinder, Albie is evidently learning impaired and no one is getting him the help he needs - except for the 'nanny'.

Alby's problem is that he's never been the best at anything, but rather than have him deal with that, this author seems to think he needs to be the best at something. Well he needs to have better parents, but the author seemed uninterested in addressing that. Albie's best friend is named Erlan, but at least he has a reason for that. Erlan is one of two sets of identical triplets in this one family which is being filmed for a reality TV show.

At this point I gave up on it because nothing is further from reality than a televised show and this felt like one more step into an unforgiving swamp. This is the second Lisa Graff novel that I have thoroughly disliked (the first being Lost in the Sun where she nauseatingly channeled John Green-around-the-gills), so I guess I'm done with her as an author of interest! I cannot commend this based on what I listened to, not even for a middle grade student.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

Rating: WARTY!

If I'd wanted to read a John Green novel which I don't, ever, I would have picked one up. I picked this one up mistakenly, but utterly convinced it was not a John Green novel. Was I ever wrong! It was awful. Even the guy reading it sounded exactly like the kind of voice that I've heard in a John Green audiobook when I made the unforgivable mistake of trying one. Gräf is a German word meaning Count, as in Graf Zeppelin, meaning Count Zeppelin who founded the Zeppelin airship company. It doesn't mean 'green', so what the heck was going on here?!

The story is that this young guy killed another young guy by means of accidentally hitting him in the chest with a hockey puck. The victim has a weak heart and dies. Now this guy is all-but irremediably morose, until this girl swoops in and rescues him. Almost inevitably, the girl is named Fallon, because god forbid she would have a given-name name that wasn't someone's surname, or any sort of ordinary name in a John Green, er Lisa Graff novel.

The only thing that Lisa forgot to do was include the girl's name in the title. She should have called it Looking for Fallon, since Lost in the Fallon sounds very odd. I guess it could have been titled Gone Guy. That would have worked, but it's really better if you have the girl's name in the title. That's only going to work though, if the girl has an unusual name, like Alaska. Looking for Myrtle, charming as that sounds, isn't going to cut it despite it having a play on words. But with an exotic, pretentious, or unusual name, you can have Half-Baked Alaska, if Alaska is a bit stupid or crazy, or Alaska is Like, Totally Husky, Dude!, if Alaska is a bit of a dog, or Melting Alaska if she's cold, and which also has the other element which you really: the implication in the title that she's lost or in need of saving. So you might have Performing Open-Heart Surgery on Alaska in the back of a old VW Bug which works because it makes a play on the term 'open-heart'.

Playing on words, especially if you can play on the girl's name, is wonderful. So you can have, for example, The Color of Jade, which is perfect, because then you get an exotic name and a play on words. Or you could have April, Come She Will which has the added advantage of a salacious play on words. So on that theme, maybe Lisa should have titled this, Fallon, Falloff which not only gets the unusual girl's name into the title, but makes a play on words and evokes The Karate Kid. OTOH, why would anyone want to evoke The Karate Kid?" Okay, strike that.

Fallon derives from Gaelic name meaning leadership or supremacy, or something along those lines. I'd hazard a guess that this is something which never crossed the author's mind, and she chose it merely because it struck her fancy, but maybe she did know what she was doing (she's emulating John Green after all, perhaps hoping to get a second wind from his sales/sails), but playing on that theme would give us Following Fallon which has the added advantage of an alliterative appellation. Another such title would be Rise and Fallon. But I think we've explored this motif quite enough for now, so I'll just go with Lost in its Own Pretensions, and leave it at that!

So, in short, the prologue sucked as much as the novel. Neither Fallon nor the main guy, whose name I completely forget, were worth my reading time. In fact, the guy was a vindictive and obnoxious little prick in the part I listened to, so I cared neither about him nor about the girl in shining armor. I don't normally read prologues, but it's hard to avoid them in audiobooks where you have no idea what's coming next, especially if they don't announce it.

The prologue was a truly crappy story about a crappy rip-off which the author calls a 'claw machine' - one of those things which takes your money based on your deluded belief that it's fair and equitable and the claw really is strong enough, if you get it just right, to pull up one of those tightly-packed plush toys. No, it's not, and even if you did get one, the toys are so crappy and cheap that they will fall apart in short order.

It's better to have your kids save the money and actually buy a decent plush toy. The habit of saving and reaping rewards will teach them much more useful tactics in the long run, than any amount of plays on a gambling machine ever will. Of course, then the kids don't get to play with the claw and have some excitement, but there are better ways to let them have fun than this. This prologue was pedantic, and as usual it contributed nothing to the story. Nothing. You can skip it completely and be no worse off. I rest my case against prologues, prefaces, introductions and authors notes. Boycott them with the same ardor you'd boycott one of those fraudulent claw machines! And give this novel a miss, because it's amiss. It will deliver to you the same emptiness that the claw machine does, and it's so John Green it will never ripen.