Thursday, October 18

Miracle Wimp

Erik P. Kraft
Little, Brown 2007

This is the story of Tom Mayo, nickname Miracle Wimp. Sixteen years old, further down on the pecking order, working his way through the vicissitudes of social life in high school. Should have been in Computer Animation, wound up in wood shop.

Where is this story going? Good question. Page by page there's a new vignettes, each no longer than a page or two, another little window into Miracle Wimp's life. Somewhat linear, bits and pieces of a story thread pop up. Easy to pick up and put down. Easy to abandon. Perfectly enjoyable, easily forgettable.

Two thirds of the way through Tom grows a bit of a spine. Things actually seem to be coming together. Is Kraft going to knot all these little bits into a massive gabbeh of lush storytelling? The kid's got some better friends, a kinda-sorta girlfriend, a small cache of cool. It's coming into the home stretch, down to the wire...

Nope, that's it. Book over.

Fair enough, it does pick up steam in the last half and seems to pull itself out of being just a collection of random-seeming vignettes, but coming on the heels of finishing the first two Wimpy Kid books I have some questions. Do teen age boys really want to read about nerds and the socially maladjusted hosers (here referred to as Donkeys and bolos) they deal with every day at school? If you had to go through all this in middle school would you still be interested it in high school? Is this really the only way to capture teen boys who don't want to delve into fantasy? Is the best we can offer them in terms of realistic fiction that isn't the cold world of The Chocolate War?

Yes, the bits ring true, the totally awkwardness is palpable, but on a lot of levels I can't help wonder if this book wouldn't track better with a certain sector of the male adult population. Guys who were there once, who came out of it okay, and can look back and laugh.

I laughed a couple times, but it was the hit-or-miss laughter of watching stand-up. That's no coincidence; Kraft does stand-up comedy and that's the exact rhythm of this book. Jab, jab, jab, punchline. Smirk, smirk, smirk, laugh. Ponder, muse, laugh, use the bathroom, answer the phone, take a nap, grab a snack, pick up the book, open it randomly, read.

Literature for a short attention spans that...

What? Huh? Was I saying something?


Brooke said...

A book of nerd angst (or, "nangst," if you will) with a meandering plot?

I think I'm going to chalk this book up to the "Napoleon Dynamite Effect."

I mean, the cover of the book even looks kind of like the cover of Dynamite DVD. Hmmm.

david elzey said...

That's a good call, Brooke. I'd say that our hero here is a bit more socially adept but the feel is certainly Dynamite-ish.

I like the words "nangst" as well. I think I'm adding it to my glossary.

Anonymous said...

"Nangst." Yes, that's good.

David, your book-reviewing consistency impresses me greatly. You can really deliver -- and they're always worth one's time.

Just one compliment before breakfast there, as I'm having trouble myself finding a blogging balance these days. How DO you do it?