Saturday, June 28, 2014

[Review] Submarine by Joe Dunthorne

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary fiction, YA
Summary: At once a self-styled social scientist, a spy in the baffling adult world, and a budding, hormone-driven emotional explorer, Oliver Tate is stealthily nosing his way forward through the murky and uniquely perilous waters of adolescence. His objectives? Uncovering the secrets behind his parents’ teetering marriage, unraveling the mystery that is his alluring and equally quirky classmate Jordana Bevan, and understanding where he fits in among the mystifying beings in his orbit. Struggling to buoy his parents’ wedded bliss, deep-six his own virginity, and sound the depths of heartache, happiness, and the business of being human, what’s a lad to do? Poised precariously on the cusp of innocence and experience, Oliver Tate aims to damn the torpedoes and take the plunge.

Definitely quirky and definitely not a book I would've picked up by normal means, but I'm glad I did. So I am a big Arctic Monkeys fan, and it is no surprise then that when I heard Alex Turner, the vocalist, also did solo work, so I quickly dug up his album Submarine, which is the soundtrack for the Submarine movie, which I watched and thought was pretty fantastic. I didn't even know there was book until I happened across it on goodreads, and when I saw it, I knew I had to read it.

Personally, I found the movie more enjoyable than the book (Is it because of the soundtrack? *cough* No way...), but the book does have its own merits. It's about a teenage boy named Oliver who is oddly--creepily obsessed with his parents, particularly their relationship to the point where he checks the dimmer switch in his parents' room to make sure that they're having enough sex every week. I have never heard of a fifteen year old teenager who worried about his or her parents' sex life to this extent. I know they are way more open about sex over in Europe (the story takes place in Wales specifically), but it still comes off as a tad bit obsessive. Seriously, he goes above and beyond to make sure that their marriage doesn't fail.

Sometimes it's funny, and then other times it's just plain messed up. For example:

"There is one option that they must avoid at all costs: a baby. Couples say this: 'We're staying together for the baby,' so, logically, the reverse is also true: 'A baby will glue us back together.' The last thing any of us wants is to go through childbirth. A placenta is terrible; it looks worse than jellied eels. A third-degree tear is a rip that may occur during labor--two holes become one. I do not trust them to take the appropriate action to fix their relationship. I will count the number of tampons my mother has left each month. There are currently eight. If she is not using them, I will intervene and suggest an abortion."

Wait what? That's not funny or quirky, that's freaky! Oliver definitely comes off as egotistical, stalkerish, obsessive, and extremely manipulative. Though you can't really help but forgive him most of the time because he means well, even if he deserves to be punched in the gut for some of the things he says or does (such as writing a short guide to the fat outcast in class on the unsaid social rules of bullying and how to not be a loser anymore, and thus not be bullied anymore). If I knew someone like him, I would avoid him at all costs. Personally, I didn't even really care if anything happened to him, but I was interested in what would happen to the other characters, which is why I didn't drop this book. Parts of it are quite smart, even if Oliver is occasionally an asshole.

I did enjoy the trivia in the book. Oliver loves memorizing words and their definitions. For example "Cotard's Syndrome is a branch of autism where people believe they are dead". I liked the odd narrative style of this novel. Parts of it are written in a diary form for his girlfriend to read, though the entries are sometimes completely fabricated for his girlfriend's entertainment so it keeps things interesting. His relationships are interesting, and I enjoyed his detached observations of his life and the life of others.

As an ending note, it's still definitely worth reading if you're into offbeat things. Also recommended is Alex Tuner's Submarine soundtrack!

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