Okay, so there’s a book blog I read called Books I Done Read. And while she reads a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t (see: Georgette Heyer, diet books, etc.), the books that we have read in common, we feel the same way about. We both loved Rook and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Her 10/10 books include The Happiness Project, The Hobbit, and The Princess Bride, all of which I loved. And she just reviewed the new Meg Rosoff book which referred back to Rosoff’s previous book about a boy at boarding school meeting and becoming obsessed with a boy who lives by himself on a shack on the beach. So I decided to give What I Was a shot.
A lot of people really loved this book. I thought it was just okay, and I’m almost sure that I’m not the right audience for it. Because let’s not kid ourselves: Rosoff can write. The book is incredibly atmospheric, and the feeling of who-gives-a-fuckedness in teenage life rings real true and real clear. The main character (whose name is kind of a twist, so the Narrator) has been kicked out of two boarding schools for just not feeling it, and he’s still the odd man out at St. Oswald’s. And it’s mid-century England, so everything is kind of gloomy all the time. The kids are gloomy and mean. The teachers are gloomy and mean. The food is gloomy and mean. So when Narrator runs into Finn in an abandoned shack on the beach while out on an enforced run, he quickly becomes obsessed. Finn, on the other hand, is super taciturn and doesn’t appear to care one way or another about the Narrator. Their relationship develops until (obviously) tragedy strikes and rips everything asunder.
The book isn’t that long (just over 200 pages), and like I said: beautifully written. But not a lot happens. And I didn’t go into the book expecting car chases and murders and witty banter–I knew that not a lot was going to happen. But it really is all about their relationship. And you guys know I love a good boy-on-boy relationship. But…I just don’t know. Thinking back on it, I don’t really know why I didn’t connect with this story. The story flowed easily. I didn’t have to force myself to read it. I think maybe what it was was that for all the internal struggle we get from the Narrator, so little is offered from everyone else. And I know that’s kinda the point. But it just didn’t do it for me.
Anywho, this isn’t one of those books where I go “I can’t believe anyone has ever enjoyed this ever.” Rather, this was me stretching out of my typical types of books, and being somewhat disappointed with the results.
P.S. I read that Rosoff is super-nice, so now I feel kinda bad that What I Was wasn’t my cup of tea.
JMF Rating: 5.5/10
‘Til next time,