Thursday, August 20, 2015

Book Review: How to Write a Novel by Melanie Sumner

From Goodreads:
Aristotle “Aris” Thibodeau, age 12.5, is writing the Great American Novel.  According to Write a Novel in Thirty Days! it shouldn’t be that hard—all she needs to do is write what she knows. Conveniently, Aris’s world is full of people who are more fun to write about than live with, like her single mother, Diane.  Diane is an adjunct English professor who flirts with unemployment more than her Match.com dates, and, regrettably, does not know the difference between hair that looks messy and hair that is messy.  Aris knows that if Diane would just accept that the perfect man is already under her nose—Penn MacGuffin, handyman, nanny, and self-described PMI (“Positive Male Influence”)—their lives would change for the better. After all, nothing gets a novel off the ground like a budding romance.  But when a random accident exposes Aris to a dark part of her family’s history, she’s forced to confront that fact that sometimes in life—as in great literature—things might not work out exactly as you hoped. 
Yesterday I posted about a book with a misleading blurb, so it's appropriate that I post today about one with a perfectly descriptive blurb.

Writing
One of the blurbs for this book compares it to both Where'd You Go, Bernadette? and the Rosie Project - and this is pretty much the only time I've ever fully agreed with the comparison.   It's got the quirky, lovable characters and precocious children of Bernadette, with the fluffy ease of reading of The Rosie Project. It's definitely one that requires a bit of suspension of disbelief in the incredibly intelligent and well-spoken children, but the author addresses it in an offhand way and didn't keep me from enjoying the book.  I think the author walked the perfect line between creating unbelievably quirky characters and delightful, unique characters.

Entertainment Value
I listened to all nine hours of the audiobook over the course of two days, which should tell you something about how much fun it is.  The audiobook narrator does an excellent job, but I think it would come across equally well in print.  I loved the Northwest Georgia setting and mentions of Lookout Mountain and other familiar places.  And Aris is one of the best child characters I've read since Bee in Where'd You Go, Bernadette.

Overall
It's a shame how my positive reviews never end up being as detailed as my negatives, but it's only because I run out of great things to say without repeating myself.  This is a delightful book that has all the charm and fluff one could ask for while dealing with some hard issues as seen through the eyes of a girl on the cusp of adulthood.  I highly recommend picking it in whatever format you can get your hands on - it was a total pleasure to read.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.

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