Friday, August 6, 2010

Book Review: Friend Is Not A Verb

From the author of the Edgar Award–winning The Wessex Papers comes a hilariously offbeat novel about Henry “Hen” Birnbaum, a teenage boy who dreams of becoming a rock star despite a minor setback, namely: his girlfriend just dumped him and kicked him out of their band. Now his social life consists of night after night of VH1 marathons with his best friend and next-door neighbor, the neurotic Emma Wood.

Then there’s the matter of Sarah, his sister, who mysteriously disappeared for a whole year and just as mysteriously returned. As the story unfolds, the reasons for her disappearance seem more unbelievable than Henry ever could have imagined. Maybe rock god status isn’t too farfetched for Henry. After all, crazier things have happened.

--From Goodreads

Cover Inspection:
Just plain cute.

First Thoughts:
Henry is hilarious! Right from the start.


My Review:
Let's start with the positives shall we? I always like to get off on a good foot. This book is pretty funny. Plain and simple there are parts in this book where I found myself laughing out loud, "Hen" or Henry, the main character, is witty and ridiculous at times. He tends to surround himself with other characters of the same magnitude, and watching them interact with one another can be pretty hilarious.

I also very much enjoyed the multiple pop culture references in the story, especially Henry's love for the 90's and all the nostalgia there within. Bands, television shows, it was all there in its truly cheesy 90's glory. Truthfully I began to get a little peeved near the end at how many times Facebook was mentioned, however I know this to be true to life. I can't count how many times I've been at a bar and heard that word thrown around. Yes, it's pop culture and yes it's here to stay. Daniel Ehrenhaft's mention of these items did help me form a connection with the characters as I read.

However this is where my love for the book ended. Although I found Henry to be funny at times, I mainly found him to be awkward and obnoxious. His incessant side notes to himself (set off like this) throughout the book were endearing at first, and then became extremely distracting. Henry's sole focus in this story was to be a rock star, and it seemed to me like it was a little forced. He knew he wasn't good at bass, and yet he continued to convince himself that that was what he needed to be happy. In Henry's mind, stardom = money = happiness and I just couldn't get behind that. Maybe it's just me, but I really thought he could have directed his confusion and family angst into something more worthwhile.

As for his sister Sarah and her story, the entire first half of the story had me wondering out loud when I was going to get to find anything out about her disappearance. There were no clues, no hints, her parents didn't even seem fazed when she showed up out of nowhere. I was also so frustrated at how uncaring she seemed and how distant. She was Henry's sister after all, doesn't that afford them some kind of confidence? As the book neared the end and I finally unraveled the mystery behind Sarah's disappearance, I began to wonder why it was all such a big deal. Why couldn't Henry's parents have shared that with him? It just seemed like extremely poor parenting to me.

Overall this was a book that just irked me too much to really appreciate it. There were high points and low points, but sadly the things I disliked really weighed in strongly. More than once I had to resist simply giving up on reading this book, and that made me sad. It's not often that I find a book I have that much trouble reading. I think that this book has great potential, but that the quirkiness makes it a difficult read. Perhaps there are those out there who will think differently than me and if so, great! Let me know what you think in the comments if you have read this book already.

Book Details
Title: Friend Is Not A Verb
Author: Daniel Ehrenhaft
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: Hardcover; 224
Source: Around The World Tours

Final Rating: 2 Keys to My Heart

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