Wednesday, March 25, 2009

when i was five i killed myself by howard buten

burton rembrandt has the sort of perspective on life that is almost impossible for adults to understand: the perspective of an eight-year-old. and to burt, his parents and teachers seem to be speaking a language he cannot understand. this is burt's story as written in pencil on the walls of the quiet room in the children's trust residence center, where he lands after expressing his ardent feelings for a classmate.

your book is one i read in desperation. i was going on a long subway ride and i had nothing else to read. i actually wandered my apartment, eyeing the shelves for ten minutes, before snatching your book and rushing out the door. this isn't my book, and i didn't even ask to borrow it, but since my roommate was out of town and i had to go, there it was, tossed in my bag. (thank you, wonderful roommate!)

let me begin with your opening letter to the reader -- you are not as funny or clever as you think you are. that letter made me want to put the book down. but i was on the train and it was either put the book back in my bag and be forced into conversation with strangers, or plow on to the story itself. i plowed.

i had a hard time with this. maybe because i work on children's books for a living, and while this is not a kids' book, it has a child protagonist. and i didn't like burton. at all. and it was so obvious from the beginning what he (and jessica) did to get him chucked into the kids' crazy house. 

your story telling tactic is interesting and you utilize flashbacks quite well without it getting confusing or obnoxious. but the structure of your plot left something to be desired -- like a satisfying conclusion. you end with incident with jessica and burton, but honestly, what the heck happens to burton? he spends the entire book resisting therapy and we never find out if he's committed for the rest of his youth, or if he convinces them he is well enough to live among the sane again. nothing concrete comes of his time in this center, so it feels like a waste that you bothered to write about his days and events there at all. 

oh well. it passed the time on the subway fine enough. and that's the only expectation i had for your book.

dutifully yours,
a lone reader

No comments:

Post a Comment