I have a feeling this is going to be a short review, in part at least because I didn’t finish reading this one. Yes, we’ve gotten to my first DNF of the year (at least, my first public blogging about a DNF title; rest assured, there have been others). (Er. We all know that DNF is Did Not Finish, yes? I first saw Liz B use that acronym at Teacozy, so I’m assuming it’s a thing. A Thing, actually.)
Can I also just mention that I’m super bummed to out myself as someone who did not finish a Pete Hautman book? Because I would really prefer, as a fan, to be raving about this book — it’s science fiction! It’s full of action! It’s Pete Hautman! National Book Winner Pete Hautman! He will write any book and make it pretty awesome! Pete Hautman, people!
In any case, here’s what we’re looking at: Tucker Feye is an average teenager who at the outset of the novel does not spend his time seeing floating discs, interacting with possible aliens/super evolved humans, or time traveling. Until, of course, he starts doing all three of those things. One day, his minister father disappears through a floating disc and returns about an hour later, having lost his faith. Tucker’s family begins to unravel. When his parents disappear completely, Tucker finds his way through a floating disc and begins his own journey through time.
In general, my notes complain that this is not a very subtle book. Tucker’s family is the “Feye” family, for example — being sucked into a disc is rather like being transported to fairy land, am I right? Get it? More problematically, the writing here is not exceptional. Although the prose tells the story successfully, it doesn’t go any further than that. And unfortunately, there were a couple of times that I came across some downright clunkers: “By the time school let out in June, Tucker had almost gotten used to having a crazy mother.” Ouch. I mean. Ouch. Is that funny? Because I am not laughing. I have trouble imaging that Tucker is unaffected by his mother’s struggles. I have trouble believing that anything about a family member dealing with illness (mental or physical) deserves such flip writing. And while the mom is a minor — very minor! — character, it reflects badly on Tucker. It makes him seem flip, or uncaring, when in fact it’s the writing that’s the problem. These moments were enough to kick me right out of the story. Total killer in Printzland.
Actually, a lot of my issues with this book started with the way the mother is presented. The way her illness was described was totally inconsistent. She cannot keep herself clean, or make sense when talking, and has emotional, inappropriate outbursts…but can continue to cook and clean the house? Ugh. I guess so that Tucker and dad can have adventures? Just…no.
I have a feeling that the three star love (Kirkus, Booklist, and PW) was for taut action and ambitious themes rather than the writing per se. Which is totally understandable, and which I can support in theory — I didn’t quite make it far enough to see where all it was going. The writing and inconsistent/thin characterization felt like issues that would sink this as a Printz contenda.
I also suspect — but only suspect, perhaps you can confirm — that there’s a pacing problem here, too. The first 1/4 is all every day, fairly mundane stuff: Tucker’s family, Tucker’s family falling apart, Tucker wanting to know more about the discs. It takes an awful long time to get to the plot part of the book.
But maybe you’ve read more of the book? Would you care to champion it? Comments are open, and I’d love to hear your take.