This book hit just about every emotional and rational2 chord a former twelve-year-old boy could have: The embarrassment of having to spend a lot of time where your parents work;3 the horror of sending someone to the hospital when all you intended was a bit of yellow-pencil slapstick;4 the surreality of attending the first mixed-gender non-birthday party with members of your own peer group; the awkward phases of noticing and trying not to notice girls;5 the shock of discovering you just may be one of the dumb people you despise; the slow realization of how much people actually lie to each other, and that most of the lies they tell are neither malicious nor harmful;6 and the perhaps even slower acknowledgement that we simultaneously control and yet lack control over the things that happen to us.7
It also brought back many situational memories for me: Week-long (and shorter) camping trips with my family; summers spent working at camp as a lifeguard,8 boating instructor, and waterfront director; crawling through drainpipes to fetch lost sports equipment;9 the sudden arrival of emergency personnel to a scene that, let's face it, stupid adults blew all out of proportion. Maybe I should stop there.
In short, reading this book made me feel like I was twelve-years-old again for the first time since at least yesterday. And for that it should be praised.
1. Probably not really, but if you read it, you'll know why I phrased it like that.
2. In that order.
3. If Max thought he had it bad, try having people think you went to church at The Salvation Army Thrift Store because your parents owned it. None of which was true for me, but trying to explain the reality almost always ended up being an exercise in futilely excessive protest.AB
A. Shakespeare reference. Score!
B. Much is made of the footnotes in this book,† yet there are no instances of embedded footnotes like this one and its immediate predecessor. I don't mean to denigrate‡ the author's or narrator's use of footnotes, but it seems that in at least a couple instances, embedded footnotes would have been more appropriate than successive footnotes.
† Hands down, my favorite footnote reads: "Grizzly bears understand territory" (p. 42). It probably makes more sense in context.
‡ "Denigrate" means to put down. I don't mean setting something down, as in "Denigrate the plate on the table" — that would make no sense. I mean "put down" in the sense of criticizing or complaining.
4. Sorry, Adam.
5. And it's corollary of noticing them noticing and trying not to notice you.
6. But some of them are both.
7. This — THIS! — is what C. S. Lewis meant in "On Stories" when he wrote, "We have just had set before our imagination something that has always baffled the intellect: we have seen how destiny and free will can be combined, even how free will is the modus operandi of destiny. The story does what no theorem can quite do."
8. Max's suspicion that lifeguards "do nothing but hang out with each other, and party all night, and have more fun in one summer than you'll have in the whole rest of your life" is mostly merited.
9. A frisbee, not a ball, but still....