Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Review: Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne (The Journals of Nick Twisp)

Title: Youth in Revolt

Author: C.D. Payne

Pages: 499



Youth in Revolt is the journals of Nick Twisp, California's most precocious diarist, whose ongoing struggles to make sense out of high school, deal with his divorced parents, and lose his virginity result in his transformation from an unassuming fourteen year old to a modern youth in open revolt. As his family splinters, worlds collide, and the police block all routes out of town, Nick must cope with economic deprivation, homelessness, the gulag of the public schools, a competitive Type-A pather, murderous canines (in triplicate), and an inconvienent hair trigger on his erectile response--all while vying ardently for the affections of the beauteous Sheeni Saunders, teenage goddess and ultimate intellectual goad.

If there is one thing--ONE THING--that you can take away from this book, it is this:


We are talking federal laws here, people.

And I loved every second of it.

We first get a glimpse of Nick's dry, at times wicked humor, from the opening sentence:

WEDNESDAY, July 18--My name is Nick. Someday, if I grow up to be a gangster, perhaps I will be known as Nick the Prick. This may cause some embarrassment to my family, but when your don gives you your mafia sobriquet you don't ask questions.

Assuming that that paragraph alone did not convince you to go out and purchase Youth in Revolt, I shall continue.

Nick introduces himself quiet plainly, leaving nothing sacred, unabashedly saying what every other boy in the world is thinking--he hates his name, he hates his family, and he is obsessed with sex.

Now, I'm going to get it out there right now. Youth in Revolt is not for everyone--in fact, most people will find it a revolting (excuse the pun), raunchy, Judd Apatow-movie gone awry collection of paper and words that doesn't deserve the title of 'book'. Most people will grimace and toss it into the fireplace and try to erase it from their virgin minds. Some. Not all.

So, if you have no been frightened off, let's continue.

This begins with typical teen ranting--it is a diary, after all--with Nick generally introducing himself, his family, and his interests. It's hilarious right from the starts, from Nick coming home from his father's house to find his mother has painted his bedroom pink to help "calm" him--"she said she had read this color was widely used in hospitals to help calm mental patients. I told her I wasn't mentally ill, I was just a teenager"--to his vocal disdain for Jerry, his obese step father. Youth in Revolt is basically the extreme side of white trash, told through the eyes of a kid destined for greater things.

Nick is positive that he will remain a virgin forever, until an unexpected trip to a trailer park up in Lakeport sends him head-first into the Greater Then Thou Sheeni Saunders. Beautiful, intellegent and a tad mamnipulative, she takes Nick's heart in a deadly chokehold and refuses to let go. While it's hard to imagine as you get deeper into the novel, she really is the reason Nick does anything. He has literally broken near every law in the country beside first degree murder (notice I don't say murder--I say first degree murder) just to get some. While some would argue that this cannot suffice as a plot, it most certainly can. And it does.

So, as Nick leaves with Sheeni's promise of you-know-what still fresh in his mind, he resolves to bring her to him and lose his ever-loving virginity before his freshman year is up.

So, without giving anything away, I will just declare my undivided love of YOUTH IN REVOLT and how GODDAMN HILARIOUS IT IS.

The writing, as I can describe it, is the way I'd imagine a hyper-intellegent, hyper-sexual, and hyper-neurotic teenager would write. Big words rule the day in this satirical look on modern youth as Nick attempts to understand why the fuck everyone is SO DAMN CRAZY and how he managed to be counted among them.

In a period of six months, Nick goes from a meak, bookish virgin to a crossdressing stud with a bit of a complex. Hell yes.

Nick is not a hero--he's an anti-hero. He's a bit of a jerk, crude, just plain nasty at times, but you there's a feeling of devotion to him that few authors could pull off--you HAVE to cheer for him, you HAVE to sympathize with him, you HAVE to wish him well, because there is simply no one else to root for. He is literally the only boat of sanity in a crazy, mixed up world and, no matter how he reacts to the world around him, he is simply the only one we, the reader, can root for because he's the one telling the story.

As for the other characters, they're all described basically as morons--except for Sheeni--and this may be a sign of an unreliable narrator. That's another thing--we don't know if this is true, we don't know if Nick's telling the truth about anything, or just lying to convince himself there's a legit reason he ends up where he is. We just have to trust him.

Mr. Payne does a perfect job in dramatizing modern youth and making fun of the lengths some boys will go too to get what they want. He lightens up what could be a heavy situation, pokes fun very discreetly at modern youth and sex, and just flat-out rocks my world. A must-read for anyone with a sense of humor.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Also: Michael Cera has been cast to star in the movie adaption of Youth in Revolt:


Lisa said...

Hey Danielle: I gave you an award, I hope you don't mind! :) I love your blog!

Faye said...

lol...Awesome review. I'll check this one out.

Jessica (BookLover) said...

Nice! I'll have to look this one up next time I'm at a bookstore or book sale.

On a side note: I love Michael Cera!! He just oozes awesomeness. :) I really can't imagine him as the jerk in the movie but I'm willing to see how it plays out.

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