Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Review: Thumbsucker

Thumbsucker by Walter Kirn
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Description: "It was the one thing I'd always done.  Even breathing did not go back to the womb.  Being part of a circle of shoulder, arm, hand, mouth, connected me to myself.  This circle is what they tried to break the summer I turned fourteen."  So begins Thumbsucker, the story of Justin Cobb, "the King Kong of oral obsessives."  His father's attempt to end his bad habit begins a string of other fixations: girls, drugs, fly fishing, and Mormonism, to name a few.  When Justin's dentist prescribes him with Ritalin, he thinks he'll be "cured" of his hyperactivity. His experience with the drug temporarily puts a band-aid on certain parts of his life, but ultimately Justin has to face the facts: pills don't solve all your problems, and they certainly can't fix your family.

Review: If you enjoy coming-of-age novels that hit you over the head with the "I've experienced so much and grown as a person" schtick on the last page, STAY AWAY FROM THIS BOOK.  If you like books that are messy, provocative, and not tied up neatly with a bow, then this is right up your alley.  Fair warning, this book isn't entirely about good feelings and connecting with your family...very often, it's about getting as far away from them as possible (and this not being a bad thing).  It is about growing, but in unexpected ways.  Thumbsucker skips around from one obsession to the other, and it feels as if you're really trapped in the overactive mind of a Ritalin-junkie, which sometimes left me feeling rushed and kind of scattered.  Kirn reels it back when talking about Justin's family, though, which makes for some surprisingly emotional moments.  The only critique I have with this book is sometimes it was difficult to connect with Justin's character.  He's clearly trying to not know himself in the book, as we see by his numerous distractions and diversions.  Sometimes it feels like the reader is distanced from him as well.  But for the adventures he has, this book is well worth reading.

Review by Sam
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