Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Beaut' Book...not about sanitary products
The 10pm Question, Kate De Goldi
First of all, let's explain that post title.  When Bea recommended this book to me (repeatedly, while she read it), I heard the title words all blended together, and stored the soundbite of her rec, not a visual.  She referenced it casually a few times, and each time, I heard, "You really should read The Tampion Question."  She didn't exhort me, shake me by the shoulders, or elaborate about what made this book something I needed to get my hands on, she just kept saying, by title, it was one I'd like.  Perhaps the third time, I asked her to please spell it out, because when you've only heard the title, it sounds a little like I really need to get reading about sanitary products.  She cleared that up.  10PM.  What sealed the deal on me chasing up a copy, was learning it was YA!  Now Bea knows what information to lead with.  That's a good'un, or that there'll be spaceships.  Or clonesAndroidsA great love storyBeautiful writing.  Take your pick.  THIS BOOK DOES NOT HAVE SANITARY PRODUCTS OR SPACESHIPS.  For those of you who have been skimming then skipping my sci-fi-fanning, this is not that.  This is entirely different.  And wonderful.  Let me start by saying, this is a five out of five book.  Here's why:
  • The 10pm Question is set in New Zealand, and it casually, authentically and sweetly integrates kiwi content, all of which adds meaning and value to the narrative, as opposed to the awkward insertion of token tidbits here and there, or spinning the spotlight on some of the country's darkest tales for shock value.  I am so tired of our big hitters featuring a pohutakawa for the sake of having some native flora, or worse, featuring abuse or mass murder.  I get that there are stories there too, but this is the kind I want to snuggle down with.
  • The poetic language provides injections of wit, whimsy and beauty.  This is great writing, guys.  De Goldi is generous with her colourful vocabulary without being showy.  It's motif and theme-rich too.  This book is a NZ English teacher's dream!  AH!
  • There is a constant, gentle humour.  For example, you learn the cat's name in the first paragraph; The Fat Controller.  /slapping leg
  • I think The 10pm Question is like a contemporary kiwi mixture of Okay for Now (one of my favourite books) and Stargirl...only edgier than either of those.  And yet gentle, like the first. 
  • I am in awe of the journey I made with these characters.  My feelings towards each blossomed.  Initially, I felt pity for the main character.  I grew to admire him.  
  • Information is given, then seamlessly reincorporated as something we understand to be part of the world of the book.  Routines are savoured; in-jokes become inclusive of the reader.
  • I felt refreshed to find myself transported to such an authentic adolescence without finding myself bombarded with an excess of sex, drugs, alcohol and all of the other things that "teenagers do" so therefore, a book wouldn't be authentic without?  Garbage.  Yes, Frankie (the main), is younger than some protag's, but he is still in the time of "the stirrings," yet things are so much more tactful.  This feels like a "real" teen book without being repulsive to me.  I think mid-teens would be a fair time to read it.  Yeah, guys?  There's a little cussing (mostly blasphemy), and some minor mature references, and overall, I think the message is for slightly older YA (I wouldn't file this in Children's so much as YA and Adult).
  • Frankie, as narrator, is highly intelligent and interesting.  I found all of the characters had depth and were interesting.  And they were all flawed!  So, so impressed.
Only negatives:
  • Initially I listened to this as an audiobook available from my city library.  Big mistake.  I wasn't fond of the reader's voice.  Not even a little.  I respected his talent for switching between different voices, but the problem was, I didn't like any of them...nor his intonations or delivery of dialogue.  He was ruining the characters, for me.  I'm sorry, Reader Dude.  I realised, while listening, that I was screwing my face up and shaking my head and repeating each line in my mind -- sometimes aloud -- the way I thought the character would say it.  My advice: Don't get the audiobook!  Read it!  These characters are clever, and I found the reader's delivery of their speech so over the top and whiney that they all always sounded irritated.  When I read it, I heard a lot of tongue in cheek and love behind the teasing lines that the recorded narration lacked.  When I went into the library and lent a hard copy, everything was so much richer and better.  Bye bye nasally high-pitched man, hello my superior imagination and lack of humility.
  • It's a slow start.  But I don't think I'd change the end, it all felt just as it should be.  The right entrée for the main that's served.  It's a gentle meal.  It's not my usual preference, is all. 
Overall, I am very impressed with this book.  I found it touching and tender.  It dealt with potentially upsetting subject matter with hope and delicacy, teasing things out with magical alternations between frankness and subtlety, humour and sincerity.  If you read this book, I want to talk about it.

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