Thursday, November 4, 2010

Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft

Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft
"When you piss off a bridge into a snowstorm, it feels like you’re connecting with eternal things. Paying homage to something or someone. But who? The Druids? Walt Whitman? No, I pay homage to one person only, my brother, my twin.
In life. In death.

Since the death of his brother, Jonathan’s been losing his grip on reality. Last year’s Best Young Poet and gifted guitarist is now Taft High School’s resident tortured artist, when he bothers to show up. He's on track to repeat eleventh grade, but his English teacher, his principal, and his crew of Thicks (who refuse to be seniors without him) won’t sit back and let him fail."- summary from Amazon

Before I start to get in too deep, the last sentence of the summary makes this book sound much more after-school special than it really is. This is a thoroughly realistic debut that doesn't sugarcoat anything and does a great job of dealing with Jonathan's emotions regarding his twin brother's death and the pressure he feels from everyone around him.

However, I will say there were times where I was thinking to myself "Oh my god, just get over it already and stop moping around!" but having not lost someone that close to me, I feel like I have no place to say anything.

I really loved the musical and poetic aspects of the novel because it made the character richer and more three-dimensional. But at the same time, Jonathan was so wrapped up in himself and his problems that the people most important to him (his friends and mother) kind of fell by the wayside, which meant way less characterization of them. The new people he meets at Delphi, a hospice, are given more room to be fleshed out.

The climax of the book seemed to be written almost stream-of-consciously and it just flowed so well. That's one thing I loved about the prose in the book- it was accessible but philosphical and just superb.


david elzey said...

generally frustrated and impatient when the mopey character doesn't get over themselves quick enough, i'm going to check it out and hope the writing is as grounded as you suggest.

Colleen said...

The philosophical bits were very good and I also like the secondary story at the Delphi with the WWII veteran telling his memoirs. That ship sinking story was amazing - I think it really lifted the story beyond YA fare.

It was an interesting book, I think. I'd like you see your thoughts, David!

Books Dudes Will Read said...

I met Conrad Wesselhoeft recently at a writers' conference in Portland. He's a very down to earth guy, & he bases a lot of the characterization on his kids' friends. I haven't read it yet, but based on my impressions, I'll pick it up.

BookChic said...

David- I'm the same way but again, I've never lost someone very close to me before (only distant relatives) so I don't necessarily know the proper grieving length. I think it also depends on how whiny the main character is. I think Conrad handled his character really well here. I hope you come back and let us know how you liked it!

Colleen- Definitely. I liked the memoir aspect of the novel and it did lift it.

BDWR- I haven't met Conrad in person, only chatted with him online for a tiny bit, but he does seem like a wonderful guy. I do visit Seattle every so often (well, ok, I've been there once, but my sister now lives there so I imagine I'll be there again) so there's always the chance for me to meet him in person.