Saturday, November 17, 2012

Reader's Diary #897- Beth Goobie: Jason's Why?

Sometimes, when a novel is told in the first person, we really need to work hard to suspend our belief that such a character could actually write this book. As in, wow, who knew that on top of being a drug addicted 13 year old, Baby could also use such poetic description?

In Jason's Why, Beth Goobie tries to meet us halfway by writing in the style of a 9 year old boy. The sentences are short, almost clipped, and the vocabulary is quite simple.

I am at our living-room window. I'm waiting. I can hear my mom. She goes around our house. She goes up and down our stairs. She carries green garbage bags to the door. All my stuff is in those bags. There are three of them.

The problem, in case you can't tell, is that it makes for a rather annoying book. I'd hoped that I could adjust to the style, but I just couldn't. I'm not sure why, but I think I believed in the character even less. Perhaps it's because he's the same age as my daughter that Jason just didn't ring authentic. Granted, my daughter does well in school and comes from a loving home, whereas Jason is in a group home and is in constant trouble at school, so his writing would be different, and probably weaker. Maybe if you're going to that route you need to go all in. Have him screw up the punctuation. Spell words wrong. Or most likely it's because it came across as as adult woman assuming to know the thoughts of a nine year old boy.

To be fair, Beth Goobie has worked in treatment settings for children, so she'd have an insight most of us wouldn't have. But there were times when I just couldn't let go of that fact that this is Beth Goobie writing a novel, not Jason, and I never ended up buying in completely. When Jason describes his feelings as "a bubble of mad" it comes across as a counsellor's words. An instruction on how to visualize one's emotions. Or when the workers explain what restraints are and why they sometimes need to use one? A not so subtle clue that this is in fact a self-help book for troubled kids, not a novel at all.

It's a noble idea, I just think it wasn't executed well.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I think that's what I appreciated most about Room, the fact that it was written from a five year old's perspective, sounded like a five year old speaking, yet was very readable. Obviously this book did not do that.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: I found myself thinking of Room a lot as I read this. I haven't read it yet knew of the premise. This book made me wonder if I'd take to it or not.