Pierson, D.C. The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To. Vintage, 2010. ISBN 978-0307474612 pp. $
“Authentic” is an excellent word for this coming of age story. I read to page 100 and was struck by a realization that I didn’t know the main character’s name until that point, and went back to the beginning before proceeding. I’m not sure if I missed it, but it added something to the story, that it hooked me in with the voice so well. It takes the invisibility to another plane.
The novel follows the high school experience of Darren, who wants to be an illustrator, and his friendship with fellow outsider Eric that leads to ultimately to betrayal. Eric claims to never sleep (experiments to prove this ensue). I particularly liked the one scene (don’t want to give away any spoilers) that showed another dimension of Darren’s crazed costumed ninja-y big brother (WOW was he a fun supporting character!).
I really enjoyed the details of Darren and Eric’s friendship, and here again was a place were a lot rang true, like Darren’s disbelief-to-acceptance cycle of the “sleepless” notion. Darren’s home life, mixing with the drama club kids, and Darren’s first relationship were also wonderfully rendered and portrayed.I liked that chapters were prefaced with a drawing from Darren’s notebooks, and I thought about how each one related to the forthcoming chapter.
I do feel like the pacing was a little uneven–there seemed to be a slow build to the plot elements for me, like going up a rollercoaster hill, and then things steamrolled – and then they came around a curve and took a left turn into a more surreal place. I’m not sure I loved the ending, but the conclusion sent me back to the beginning again, and I think the author did a brilliant job at building this illusion of where Darren is (literally and figuratively) at the beginning, and then has a nifty reveal at the end.
I’m wondering if the bits that were slow for me (the endless details of the comic book/movie franchise Darren and Eric are planning were a bit of a snooze) are for others. I will say that it was neat foreshadowing of the other ways that hapless Eric usurps Darren’s stuff.
If I was going to recommend The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To to a teen, I’d sell it as a Ned Vizzini read-a-like.