Libba Bray, 2009. I would never have picked up this book if it hadn’t won the Printz. It just sounded too intentionally wacky, which I dislike. Sentences like this one from the jacket flap turn me off: “With the help of Gonzo, a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf, and a yard gnome who just might be the Viking god Balder, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America of smoothie-drinking happiness cults, parallel-universe-hopping physicists, mythic New Orleans jazz musicians, whacked-out television game shows, snow-globe vigilantes, and disenfranchised, fame-hungry teens into the heart of what matters most.” Eh. Give me a decent character study and a clean-lined plot any time over a goofy ensemble cast…although I do like a good road trip.
I didn’t expect to finish the book, but instead I roared through its 480 pages in a couple of nights. It’s basically a coming-of-age story, and it does have sort of a wacky cast, but Gonzo is a strong and believable sidekick, and Balder is so cute and endearing! And the smoothie cult is pretty hilarious. I could have done without the parallel-universe sideshow, but it was fine really. I guess what I’m saying is that most of the wackiness was far from extraneous. I guess what I’m really saying is that I liked the book. A lot.
And I didn’t expect it to be gay! But it so is. There are hints early on, when a trio of stoners keeps talking about female hotties, although one of the trio is named Rachel. But then, in a twist I really didn’t see coming, Gonzo comes out of the closet! I’d assumed he was written as mostly asexual because so many characters with disabilities just are, but no – gay all along. Kudos, Libba Bray.