Blank Confession: A (Rapid Fire) Review

Blank Confession by Pete HautmanBlank Confession (2010) by Pete Hautman

Shayne Blank doesn’t expect to make friends or even really get to know anyone when he comes to town. Then he walks into the police station to confess to a murder. Shayne’s confession is woven with a narrative from the perspectives of Shayne’s newest (most well-dressed) friend Mikey and the world weary detective interviewing Shayne.

The story here has good writing as well as an intriguing premise. Unfortunately that does not make for a good book in this case. Mikey, who narrates most of the story, is a caricature at best with his pipsqueak persona and suit-wearing style. The phrasing throughout the novel verges on the absurd with motorcycles being referred to as “crotch rockets” at least three times, among other atrocities.

Shayne is an under-developed character. Readers learn more about him in the last chapter than they do in the entire rest of the novel. While the idea is sound, and the story is short making it potentially great for reluctant readers, the characters drag this book down. The premise of a high school bully having the capacity to menace an entire town quickly wears thin as do the stunningly flat female character (because yes, there is only one).

The Big Crunch: A (rapid fire) Review

The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman (2011)

The Big Crunch by Pete HautmanAfter reading How to Steal a Car I was pretty sure I was done with Pete Hautman. It isn’t that his writing is bad or anything but it’s very stark and the characters are sometimes thin, a little flat. And I also have a hard time identifying with the disaffected youth of America who seem to just have a massive case of ennui.

Anyway, I gave The Big Crunch a try because I fell in love with its cover (beautifully illustrated by Frank Stockton). I knew it would be a book I would either love (as much as I love the cover) or it would be the book the convinced me to part ways once and for all with Pete Hautman.

The latter happened. I wish him all the best but his books will have to muddle along without my reading them.

The Big Crunch is a love story, but not that kind of love story. Wes and June don’t fall in love at first sight, they don’t swoon. But eventually after orbiting and watching and thinking, Wes and June sort of collide. But not in a really romantic way.

This is a subtle love story, maybe a little too subtle for my tastes.

The story alternates between Wes and June’s perspective but it’s very rapid (like every other paragraph sometimes) and makes it hard to really feel involved with either protagonist.

The book reminded me a lot of How to Say Goodbye in Robot which was all about friendship and attachments in the face of deeply NOT wanting to get attached. Ultimately though The Big Crunch lacked the verve and, yes, spark to set it apart as something special. It might not be a conventional love story but it felt a lot like something I’ve heard before.

How to Steal a Car: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

How to Steal a Car by Pete HautmanKelleigh Monahan doesn’t drink, do drugs, talk back, or do any of the other things girls usually do to act out. In fact, if it weren’t for a series of bizarre coincidences, Kelleigh wouldn’t even have become a car thief in How to Steal a Car (2009) by Pete Hautman.

The first car, the Nissan, was barely even stolen. And after that, well, steal one car and suddenly everyone expects you to be a regular car thief or something.

That isn’t to say that this bookis an action packed heist book. It’s not. Despite its title, How to Steal a Car is more about the ennui and general frustration so often associated with suburban life–especially for teens.

Kelleigh is surrounded by people lulled into complacency by their quiet, suburban town while she, much like Moby Dick’s Ishmael as quoted in the beginning of the story, wants nothing more than to run away. Or, as luck would have it, to drive away in someone else’s car.

How to Steal a Car is an interesting, super fast read. Unfortunately that does not make it particularly compelling. While Kelleigh’s ennui was palpable, she remained painfully one dimensional as a character. Hautman’s portrayal of the rest of the characters in the novel were similarly lacking in depth. The story was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end, but the Kelleigh at the end of the story was basically the same Kelleigh we met at the beginning: a girl frustrated with her life and unsure what to do to fix it.

Possible Pairings: Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson, Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron, Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark, Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga, Rx by Tracy Lynn, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, The New Rules of High School by Blake Nelson, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Gone in Sixty Seconds (movie).