A Paperback Original
Published by Serpents Tail £9.99
Those that know me know that I rarely step away from Crime or Horror as my preferred fiction genres – and, more recently as a result of blogging, those that know me only a little also feel the same.
Such was the view of Serpents Tail publicity department when sending me this title with more than a little concern that it might not really be my ‘thing’.
In advance of receiving the book, I did a bit of googling about its author, 25 year old Simon Rich, and was pleasantly surprised to find that he is in fact the youngest writer ever on a show which has brought the world some of the greatest comic talent, Saturday Night Live. That, and the fact that this first UK published release is a Manhattan high school set fun book with great reviews already, had me convinced that this would be a book worth stepping outside of my comfort zone for.
And, I’m pleased to report that it was.
Elliot Allagash is trouble, he has been trouble at every school he’s been kicked out of in the past, but when he arrives at Glendale it’s with the backing of so much money from his father that the school can’t be seen to want him to move on.
He is in need of a project, a subject on which to test his skills and to transform a regular or downbeaten student into the most popular pupil on campus.
He sets his sights on our narrator, Seymour Herson.
And then, for the next 200 plus pages he proceeds to do whatever it takes to make Seymour more popular, to get him on the better lunch table, to get him into the sports teams, to run for school president, to become a music sensation and tv star and, to get the girl of his dreams.
Initially I felt sorry for Seymour in the tale, but more and more it’s Elliot that I felt sorrow for, due to the fact that he seems to only be able to make himself happy by living his dreams vicariously through the lives of his muse, Seymour.
The school setting and situations are great, with particular use of video games and chess clubs to highlight some classic teen scenarios.
The stand-off involving flasks of coffee taken into a chess tournament final is one scene that I’ll remember for a long time to come.
So, whilst this was a bit of a departure to my usual reading, I still thoroughly enjoyed it – much in the same way as I love the movie ‘Brick’ – again for many of the same reasons that it tackles many grown up things within the frustrated years of school and college life.
I look forward to reading more of Simon Rich, and soon.
Keith B Walters