Daily Archives: December 7, 2010
Victor is tormented about girls and his awakening sexual urges. He’s tormented because he’s Mexican and at a military school and the other cadets are racist. He’s tormented because he was sexually abused by a cousin when he was child. He’s tormented because he can’t read and has to keep it a secret from everyone around him. He’s tormented because he stumbled into an orgy as a hormonal teenage boy and – despite running away – found himself intrigued. He’s also anguished because his brother died.
It’s a whole lot of torment, a whole lot of anguish, but sadly not a whole lot of engaging.
Being a teenager sucks, and everyone knows it. Fine. I kept feeling like author Victor Villasenor was going for something like a Holden Caulfield/”The Catcher in the Rye” vibe with his memoir of an anguished young man making his way through a world he doesn’t fit into. The reader is beat over the head on every single page with the anguish Victor feels for one thing or another. “Catcher in the Rye” or not, I had a hard time caring about the narrator – even as he overcomes his awkwardness and guilty feelings by being good at chess and going off to college and then moving to Mexico. (Once in college and Mexico, he changes from feeling stupid to having someone every couple pages tell him how brilliant he is. Oh, now he’s genius. Yeah. Zzzzzzzzzz.)
Villasenor is brutally honest about his struggles in life, which is admirable. It takes serious balls to talk about your early sexual awakening.
Sadly, the fact that he’s unflinchingly honest is about the only positive thing I can say about this book. I didn’t feel it was well-written. There are countless pages of cliche-ridden dialogue that left me thinking “No one talks like that!” and at some point, it feels like you’re being beat over the head with a baseball bat made of angst. Whenever the narrators father appears, he spouts pages of advice that reminded me of the portrayal of Mr. Brady from the Brady Bunch Movies.
I could have also done just fine without the endless mentions of/fascination with pubic hair. I cannot tell you how many times the word “lovebush” appears. Seriously. I should go back and count.
The whole thing is just too much.
(And there is also FAR too much USE of capitalization to EMPHASIZE important THINGS THAT ARE HAPPENING. <– I’m not exaggerating. I was tempted to take a picture of some of the pages to further showcase this, but decided against it.)
Really, a book where the main character seriously considers castrating himself to ward off sexual urges should be at least interesting, if nothing else.
Among Villasenor’s previous works is a NYTimes Bestseller and a Pulitzer Prize nomination. The cover of the book contains a quote from the Los Angeles Times that compares him to Steinbeck.
I guess I’m missing something, but this book was a chore to finish, and I kept thinking of the things it was keeping me from reading.