Thanks For The Trouble by Tommy Wallach (276 pages)
Overview: Parker Sante no longer sees the point in going to school, going to speech therapy, or doing anything, really. After his Dad died six years ago, Parker stopped talking. Ever since, he's gone through life skipping school and hanging out at different hotels, honing his pick pocket skills. One day, after stealing a giant wad of cash from a strange, silver haired girl, Parker is roped into a whole new adventure. When the girl, Zelda, catches him and, in turn, takes his notebook, the two start to communicate, Zelda talking and Parker writing. Zelda tells Parker that she's going to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge when she gets some dreaded phone call, and Parker is determined to stop this by showing Zelda just how great life is, even if he can't see that himself sometimes. Overall: 2
General Thoughts: The great problem with this book can be identified in one word: why? Now, that can be applied to a variety of different questions, but my big one is this: Why did Wallach write this book? I guess the summary could point me towards believing that maybe its something along the lines of 'one person can change your life', but I don't believe that was the point. There's usually more to it than that.
Then, I apply that to the characters. For the bits and pieces of information the readers learns about them, we're left to wonder why they do this or that or why they are the way they are. And the plot as well. What significance did these specific events hold towards ultimately getting us to our final destination? Usually, these are questions I can easily answer, and that is how I transfer my thoughts into numbers. But for this book, I honestly have no answers to give, which, in my opinion, proves that the book has missed its mark.
Characters: 2 The character craft and development presented a real problem for this book. It staunchly refused to give the reader any details beyond the very first layer of surface. Parker Sante, the main and point of view character, has some kind of speech issue that was brought on by the car accident that killed his father. His inability to speak and its subsequent effect on his life, is one of Sante's few defining characteristics, unfortunately, and Wallach doesn't even bother to clarify exactly what happened to Parker, why he refuses to go to therapy, or really what he thinks of his issue. The one other thing the reader really knows about Parker is that he hangs out in hotels to pick pockets. He never gives a motive. He doesn't do it because his family is starving, and he really shows no remorse about it, so I'm utterly confused about what this says about the moral values of Parker Sante. I've never read a first person narrative where I felt so isolated from the main character.
Then there's Zelda who is really the definition a manic pixie dream girl, but this is never even referenced at all like Wallach was unaware of the use of the trope. But that's not my main problem with Zelda. She claims that she is 247 years old and was born in Kassel Germany as a girl who could not age. And she believes and maintains this story whole heartedly. Throughout the book, I wondered if she had some form of mental illness, perhaps multiple personality disorder that drove what seemed to be the delusion she is living. Seeing this is a contemporary story, I still favor that theory, but from what Wallach has written, I'm still utterly confused. Parker only ever expresses his thoughts on the matter in that he's this or that percentage of believing her story, but never really questions his motive.
Also, Zelda makes her intention of suicide quite clear from the moment they meet. Besides her rumored past, this is the only other thing we know about Zelda, and, yet, the only concern Parker shows about this is his determination to distract her. He never once thought she might need professional help, or he should tell someone about her obvious issues. I'm still deeply confused about these two characters.
The rest of the characters are even more one note than these two main characters. They all sound exactly the same. The entire supporting class was a faceless blur in my mind as I read the story.
Plot: 2 This story takes place over the course of three days. Halloween, November 1, and November 2. Essentially, he meets Zelda, they do a bunch of random things that have no rhyme or reason, and then they part ways forever. This type of narrative structure can be extremely effective in raising the steaks and showing how much a few days can change a person. Of course, for this to work, there needs to be a very clear understanding of who the person is before and after as well as how the chosen, and limited events get them to where they are when the book ends. Unfortunately, the course of actions fell just as flat as the characters who preformed them.
Writing: 2 I am honestly so confused about this book for so many reasons. The first is that I absolutely adored this author's first book, We All Looked Up, and I couldn't recommend it highly enough, especially for the writing. I never thought that between two books by the same author my score for writing could plummet three points. This work has none of the emotional grounding or stakes of his first book, nor does it have any of the beautiful exploration of identity in the last book. I understand that this is a very different book, but these are elements that should transfer into any kind of book as they are foundations for story building.
I would love to know what Tommy Wallach's intentions were with this book. Does Zelda really have a mental illness like I assumed from the way she was written? What really motivates their actions? Why did he choose to approach suicide in this book the way that he did?
At the end of this book, the only thing I felt was totally baffled.
Links of Interest:
Week 32: Nothing: http://www.readingwritingandme.com/2017/10/weekly-reviews-and-recommendations-week_26.html
Week 32: A Semi-Deffinative List of Worst Nightmares: http://www.readingwritingandme.com/2017/10/weekly-reviews-and-recommendations-week_29.html