Reviewed by Becca
AUTHOR: David Pratt
PUBLISHER: Beautiful Dreamer Press
LENGTH: 278 Pages
RELEASE DATE: March 25, 2017
High school senior Jim Wallace faces the approaching Christmas holidays with a mixture of hope and dread. To escape the pressure, he imagines the woods and marshes around his home to be an independent country, Wallaçonia, where he is accepted and recognized as the “upright and sterling” young man people expect him to be. And he may make it yet: this could be the week he and his girlfriend Liz finally have sex, putting to rest any lingering doubts Jim has about what kind of guy he really is. But then Pat Baxter, a neighbor, asks him to help out in his bookstore during the holiday rush, and Jim starts making new connections – and rediscovering an old one. Will Jim leave the sanctuary of his imaginary Wallaçonia for the real world? And which real world will it be, the one with Liz or the one that beckons from the bookstore?
Having a teenager myself, it’s sometimes hard to get into the mind of them. There are so many pressures to be a certain way. The boys have to grow up to be ‘men’: strong, a ‘family’ man, blah, blah, blah. The girls have to be ladies but independent or whatever the mindset of the parents are. And to veer from the mindset of what the parents or society thinks that these teens should be is almost like disgrace. Teens are shunned, kicked out, the list is endless. This book gets into the mind of a teen boy who is discovering who he really is, as opposed to what everyone thinks he should be. And it’s a good look into the mind of a teen. The opening lines of the book tells it all.
Jim is a teen boy who seems to have his act together by outward appearances. He does alright in school. He’s getting ready to go to college. He has a girlfriend he loves. Overall, the boy next door type. The only thing is, he hasn’t had sex with his girlfriend yet, but he’s hoping that will change real soon. The problem with all this is Jim doesn’t feel like the boy he is supposed to be. He is actually quite lost. And to escape it all he imagines a world, Wallaçonia, where his life is different. He often thinks of himself and others as person One or person Two. The face people show and the face that is true. Just when he thinks that he is somewhat ok though, he really gets to know the bookstore owner next door and suddenly everything is as confusing as it originally was.
Jim’s character could be any teen in this world and as I read this book my heart would break many times for him. No matter what he may seem like on the outside, on the inside he is a mess. He is struggling with his identity in so many different ways. He loves his girlfriend but can’t quite let go of the fact that he often checks out guys. He even has a file hidden on his computer where he can peruse men in different ways. He is struggling with the fact that even though his girlfriend arouses him, he can’t help but wonder what if. Add to that the pressure of trying to find the right school and every other pressure teens go through and it tugs at your heartstrings. He catches himself in lies as he tries to appease everyone in the way they think he should and often takes it upon himself to take blame for anything wrong if someone is unhappy. I hate that. I hate that he often feels guilty for stuff he doesn’t even do. Yes, sometimes he gets himself in his own mess but who doesn’t. And Jim meeting Pat from next door just pulls at him in ways he has never felt before. Or ways he has felt but more strongly.
I had to hug my teen after reading this book. Although she isn’t gay or struggling to come out, she is still a teen with pressures. So often parents themselves are pressured to make sure their kids grow up to be a certain way and it is awful the way we push those views on our kids. Jim just wanted to be normal, whatever that is. But there is no normal as he is soon discovering. He is who he is, whether that meets with approval or not. And as heartbreaking as his story often was, it also showed how brave Jim really is. How admirable he is. He stands up for himself in so many ways, when all he wanted to do was run and hide in his make believe land. He makes decisions that sometimes I don’t think adults could make. Or make well.
David Pratt wrote a book that will make you think, and if it doesn’t, you need to evaluate your own brain. The writing is one of a kind to me. He truly captures the mind of a teen and I’m so glad I read this book. This is definitely a book to be read, especially if you have kids or are around them. Even if you don’t, it gives you a perspective on life that we often take for granted or don’t think about.