Friday, January 1, 2010

Book Review: "The Vast Fields of Ordinary" by Nick Burd

This book opened with an epigram by e.e. cummings:

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.

When I read that, I eagerly anticipated the actual story even more. And Nick Burd did not disappoint. I read this entire 309-page book in a few hours and was very sad when it was finished because it resonated with me so much.

It's the last summer before college for Dade Hamilton. He cannot wait to leave his stifling hometown and his parents' disintegrating marriage for what he imagines will be the idyll of college. Plus there's the matter of his sort-of boyfriend not wanting to acknowledge his existence most of the time, and a misfit from high school spread a rumor that Dade put the moves on her at a party. And then Dade meets Alex, the "dreamy loser" who makes him realize that he is worthy of being loved and living the life he wants to.

Nick Burd accurately captures the post-high school angst of his characters, the conflicts they have with wanting to fit in and be "normal" as well as wanting to live their lives the way they want. Dade is a complex character and Burd allows him and those around him to be both appealing and flawed. What I liked so much about the book is that Burd wasn't willing just to tie everything up with a neat bow at the end.

I don't read a lot of YA fiction but this, along with Peter Cameron's Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, are two remarkable books worth reading.

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