Friday, 16 August 2013

Book review: Ostrich by Matt Greene


My edition: Hardcover, to be published on 5 September 2013 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 292 pages.

Description: Alex has a story to tell. He just doesn't know what kind it is yet. He's got a lot of the same concerns most of us do growing up (exams, puberty and, in his case, a punctuation obsession plus a little quantum mechanics) but lately, ever since his brain surgery, everyone in his life is behaving more than a little mysteriously. Maybe it's adjusting to life after epilepsy or maybe it's the pressure of his pending scholarship application, but Alex is starting to see the world through different eyes. He's certain there's something rotten at the heart of his parents' marriage, and when his beloved hamster Jaws 2 starts acting up as well he decides it's time to investigate.

So begins the journey that takes him to the limits of his understanding, the edge of his endurance, the threshold of manhood, and the country music aisle in Virgin Megastore. And eventually, on the eve of his English Composition exam, to the door of his mother's home-made dark room. But will Alex have the courage to expose the terrible secret that lies beyond? Or would it be better for everyone if he buried his head in the sand?

Rating:



13-year-old Alex has a brain tumour and suffers from epilepsy. When he returns home from the hospital after surgery he soon realises that his hamster Jaws 2 (not named after the movie sequel but the shark itself, as it's the replacement of his first hamster - Jaws) is acting peculiar. And what exactly is his mother hiding in the dark room? His parents pretend nothing is wrong and dodge his questions, so Alex enlists the help of a classmate - an albino girl by the name of Chloe - to solve the mysteries. In his search for answers, Alex soon finds more than he has bargained for.

Highly intelligent for his age, Alex's perception of the world is very witty and intellectual and as he embarks on his investigation even adult readers can learn a lot from his narrative. And despite the subject matter the writing is often humorous and the sentences are build up in a unique way to reflect the way Alex views the world, which makes for a different kind of reading experience. However one of those, the use of parentheses, quickly became a bore rather than a quirky way of writing because of their sheer excessiveness.

I love the blurb for this novel and when it was billed to me as similar to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, which is one of my absolute favourites, I was instantly sold. But while I enjoyed the investigative story and the quirkiness of the characters and situations they found themselves in, ultimately my enjoyment of the novel was hampered by the fact that some of the things that happened are unsuited to a 13-year-old character. Heavy with adult themes, including pornography, it's fair to assume this is a book aimed at older teens and adults. However, that doesn't make it acceptable for an author to have such a young character look into some of the more extreme sexual terminology. It felt like too much and made it hard to feel empathic for Alex, and inadvertently steered me away from the much more important topic - that of his illness.

While this coming-of-age story certainly is reminiscent of the previously mentioned The Fault In Our Stars as well as Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time it wasn't as emotionally powerful or intellectual and never really reached their level of mind-blowing awesomeness. Which is a real shame, because it's clear that author Matt Greene's writing is stylistic and fresh as he cleverly plays around with words and sentences to put Alex's unique POV to paper.

You can pre-order your copy of Ostrich from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Waterstones or your own preferred retailer.


Many thanks to Lovereading for providing me with a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review



Would you like to know more about author Matt Greene? You can find him online at:

Publisher's website: http://www.orionbooks.co.uk

Twitter: @arealmattgreene

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