I had trouble with this book, and every time I have trouble with a book I know it's one I need to think about more, which usually ends up turning into a book I have to review. This month's trouble maker: Husky by Justin Sayre. This is listed as YA by the publisher, but the main character is 12, so it sort of feels more like that, dare I say it, uncategorizable book.
Pause for gasping.
And kudos to Sayre.
Basic plot line: Davis, twelve years old, lives with his mother and grandmother in a brownstone in Brooklyn. He loves opera and is incredibly sensitive, with serious self-esteem issues. He doesn't like his body. It's the summer before 8th grade, the last weeks before the start of a whole new school year, and we spend them in his life. Nothing earth-shattering happens. Rather, it's a compilation of small occurrences that nevertheless cause a major change in the main character. Davis's friends change, evolving as adolescents do, finding themselves, his mom starts dating someone new after a very very long time of not dating anyone at all, Davis isn't invited to his best girl friend's sort of birthday party (which is just for girls), and Davis, too, is, without really knowing it, trying to figure out who he is while also searching for the strength to voice his own hurts and feelings.
According to the author, the main character is gay but Sayre said he wasn't himself if Davis knew. This isn't a coming out book, not in the sense of sexuality. It's more about finding one's self, a much larger concept of which sexual orientation is but one part.
The story flows seamlessly. The events that happen, their very triviality, is exceptionally well-written. And the characters are all extremely well drawn. In some ways, I think that's where I began to get hung up on the storytelling. Davis would spiral down so deeply into self-doubt or loathing that I began to be turned off as a reader. That probably says more about me than about the writing. I strive as a writer to walk that the line between believability and writing that's too well done, too realistic, too hard to relate to.
Reading those words, I think, again, it's me. It's not the story. But I didn't feel that way about Wonder, which is also a story about tough issues, finding one's way. However, Auggie didn't go so far down the rabbit hole that I couldn't or wouldn't follow him. Perhaps that is the difference between YA and middle grade? I'm positing. I'm not sure. And I'll probably spend another month chewing on the idea, trying to figure out what my personal takeaway is. Which is exactly why I had to review this book. One that makes me think, argue with myself aloud, while walking my dogs, and even puts me in a bad mood, that's a book that's causing me to grow.
I review books that surprise me, jar me, make me think. They are books I've bought, borrowed from the library, or been given as a gift. I do accept ARCs, but will only review a book if it moves me. It's about the writing. If I'm moved, I pass it on in a review.