Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Life: An Exploded Diagram

Life: An Exploded Diagram, by Mal Peet. The GoodReads summary:
Can love survive a lifetime? When working-class Clem Ackroyd falls for Frankie Mortimer, the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy local landowner, he has no hope that it can. After all, the world teeters on the brink of war, and bombs could rain down any minute over the bleak English countryside--just as they did seventeen years ago as his mother, pregnant with him, tended her garden. This time, Clem may not survive. Told in cinematic style by acclaimed writer Mal Peet, this brilliant coming-of-age novel is a gripping family portrait that interweaves the stories of three generations and the terrifying crises that define them. With its urgent sense of history, sweeping emotion, and winning young narrator, Mal Peet's latest is an unforgettable, timely exploration of life during wartime.
This book is a prime example of why I try to avoid male-written male-POV books, especially of the YA variety. It wasn’t a bad book or anything--it just so wasn’t the type of book I like.

The book’s split into three . . . categories? There’s the story of Clem’s mother and grandmother and their growing-up years and marriages; there’s Clem’s story; then there’s the history-lesson bits. The parts about Clem’s mother and grandmother are pretty good but mostly depressing as you find out the ways they settled instead of choosing things that would make them happy. Clem’s story seemed a bit pointless, to be honest, which is weird since he’s the main character. Basically, his story involves his illicit romance with a girl from a higher social class--except their relationship only consists of them making out and groping and Clem wanting to have sex with her. And probably that’s accurate for what teenage boys want out of a relationship, but after a while I just got so tired of Clem and his sex obsession.

The history portions of the book ended up being my favorite. Interspersed throughout Clem’s story are chapters of straight history about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Those bits were a lot like reading a textbook, only they were actually really entertaining. If this author ever writes a non-fiction book, I want to read it. Although, really, even after finishing the book, I have no idea what the point of those history chapters were. Clem’s story ends up kinda connecting to it, but not enough that it made any sense to me why there was a history book hidden inside what’s ostensibly YA fiction.

And don’t even get me started on the ending. I was so annoyed by it. I’m the type who likes my endings to have some, you know, closure, and this book so did not have any. It just ended. Randomly. And not in a “I’m ending with a cliffhanger so you’ll read the sequel” kind of ending randomly. I’m pretty sure there’s zero room for a sequel, so this book ending without giving me any closure was a bit of a let down. And what annoys me the most about it is I know the author did it intentionally to try to be deep or something. I don’t want deep; I want happy!

Anyway, I feel like people with a deeper appreciation for literature than me might enjoy this book, but as for me and just my basic love of reading, I was a bit disappointed. When I finished it, I felt like I’d just read some required reading for school or something. I felt I should appreciate it but instead most of its point went way over my head.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

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