Hello everyone, and welcome to Loco Local's Literature Club! LLLC is a blog entry series (hopefully) by yours truly in which I express my thoughts on books I've been reading in my life. What's with the name? Anyone who participated in some of the CAH games during the Sponge Cup event may recognize the Loco part from the shortlived LocoAquatic(o) nickname I gave myself there. I need not explain the Local part, and Literature Club because I had the opportunity to make a contextually appropriate and tasteful DDLC reference.
Now, for my first entry in this series, I'll be talking about the book titled Noah Can't Even, by Simon James Green.
Why Did I Buy This Book? - This year has been a rather interesting one for me in regards to reading; I've spent the last year trying to find some good LGBT books to read, and it's quite hard sometimes because I wouldn't say it's necessarily obvious. So, yeah, I've been reading books like Call Me By Your Name and Less, which have been intricate reads that I will probably go over at some point in the future. This book was chosen in order to continue with this specific kind of reading.
What's It About? - The book centers on a 15 year old boy named Noah Grimes, living in a small British town called Little Fobbing. His mum is a Beyonce tribute act, his dad "disappeared years ago", his gran's got dementia, and in regards to his school life, he's not the most popular kid. Like, at all. He has but only one friend: Harry. Noah wants to be normal, and figures that he'd achieve this if he went out with a girl in his geography class that he likes - Sophie. But, fast forward to a party she's invited him and Harry too, and he's kissed by Noah! What is he to do, especially when this is when everything in his life begins to get even worse?
Key Characters To Note -
Noah - protagonist. 15 year old boy, Year 11 student, has a crush on Sophie...basically he's everything mentioned above.
Harry - Noah's friend. Reveals himself to be gay to Noah...via kissing him at a party.
Sophie - a girl whom Noah likes and wants to be with.
Mrs. Grimes - Noah's mum. Not the best of parents, and considers herself a pretty good tribute act.
Gran - Noah's gran (father's side) living in a home. It's established a lot in the book that Noah has a deep bond with her and favors her over his own mother.
Let me just start this off by saying that I did not expect this to be British. At all. And I don't mean through the lexical choices (i.e."mum" over "mom") but rather the literal setting in and of itself. I think, based on me also being British, I ended up rolling my eyes at a lot of what was being said in the book, particularly at the beginning, because it really helped me picture everything that went on (not that that's necessarily a favorable trait based on my high school experiences, but I digress).
Now, as for the protagonist, Noah; well, he...is certainly very interestingly written, I'll give him that. A lot of his dialogue is kind of cringe-worthy, particularly around the middle of the book whenever he's talking to anyone socially superior than he (i.e. "I like so many jams...I like all the jams.", "Look, if you're hot, maybe you should cool down."). Other dialogue, particularly around the climax of the book, shows that he can actually be very well-versed in what he is talking about and can speak in immaculate English; it's rather clear through what he says half of the time in the book that there's an evident disconnect between him and those around him, and yet what I find utmost hilarious about all of it is that I felt like I could relate to Noah. So, in a way I had some personal resonation with what Noah was saying half of the time as well as with his general awkwardness, anxiety and naivete.
The key relationship of the book is primarily the dynamic between Noah and Harry, but if there was anything I hoped for it was something a little more subtle in the beginning leading up to the party about the kind of relationship Noah and Harry had as friends; it was weird, because there were some part about the pre-party moments that I liked. One in particular would be the fact that Noah notices that Harry started wearing Calvin Klein underwear as opposed to any old nameless pair; while the narrative doesn't jump to the conclusion of Noah liking Harry in that way scenes like this act on pragmatics to be effective, and it all feeds in to how Noah gradually comes to terms with his newfound feelings for Harry by the end of the book. But the relationship kind of sits on the fence for much of the book following the party, and this feeds into what I'll go into detail about in the paragraph below...
This book, I'd say, has a weakness in its use of curveballs. Now, the curveballs are somewhat justified in that they, at the very least, relate to literally every other aspect of Noah’s life outside of the whole Harry business and then some (to not spoil to much of the book’s events), but what I didn’t appreciate was all this new information being thrown at me (yes, it’s not just peppered in, they outright throw it all at you via cliff-hangers at the end of chapters here and there). It’s not necessarily a major complaint on my part, but my primary problem with this was that it also distracted from focusing on Harry, and Noah’s affected relationship with him. Some of the new plotlines in the book do technically spring from that relationship and its issues, but they all act as tangents to the Noah-Harry relationship which is a shame because I wanted to really read into their relationship. But overall, all the plots begin to make sense as you go through them though, and it all ended up coming together to some degree. A lot of exposition is involved, I must say, especially at the end. It sort of involves explaining the solution to one of the book's biggest mysteries and if I'm perfectly honest it was fine for me in that I wasn't really able to predict anything about it with what everything else it kept throwing at me, so I enjoyed learning how everything came together.
The ending of this book involves Harry and Noah confessing their feelings for each other in a hospital (I won’t name the character hospitalized, but let’s say an epiphany is involved), and I almost cried, honestly. Both confessions – Harry’s, then Noah’s – felt so emotionally endearing that they were incredibly engaging so when they got together (surprise surprise amirite?) I was mentally cheering for them. It was also nice because it gave the relationship the spotlight it truly needed in light of everything else thrown in the plot to complicate matters for Noah especially.
I did rather enjoy this book; I wouldn’t say it’s my utmost favorite read by quite a shot, for the dialogue can be rather grating in places, but it’s heartfelt at the end and Noah’s somewhat likeable enough to root for.
Favorite Quote – “Friggin’ hell, is he wearing SpongeBob underwear?” – a random Year 11 Geography class student, referring to Noah’s underwear.
(Oh yeah, the book makes around 3 or 4 references to SpongeBob. It is established that Harry and Noah have an agreement where they deem it fine that they still watch the show but it is not anything they deem worthy to bring up in public or use as leverage against the other. That was pretty fun to pay attention to, if I do say so myself.)