Sunday, April 4, 2010

Book Review: The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni

Title: House of Tomorrow

Author: Peter Bognanni

Pages: 368

Received from: publisher


A funny and deeply affecting story of a young man's self-discovery, a dying woman's last wish, and a band of misfits trying desperately to be heard.

On the outskirts of a small town in Iowa, Sebastian Prendergast lives in a geodesic dome with his eccentric grandmother, who has spent the last eleven years homeschooling him on the teachings of futurist, philosopher R. Buckminster Fuller. But when Sebastian's grandmother has a stroke, Sebastian is forced to leave the dome and discover what it means to live a normal life.

Jared Whitcomb is a chain-smoking sixteen-year-old heart transplant recipient who befriends Sebastian, and begins to teach him about all the things he has been missing out on, including girls, grilled cheese sandwiches with grape soda, and Sid Vicious. Together they form a punk band called The Rash, and with the help of Jared's sister, Meredith, prepare to take the local church talent show by storm. But when Sebastian's grandmother wants him to return to the dome and take Bucky's message to the world, will Sebastian have to give up The Rash — and lose his chance at winning Meredith's heart?

Unexpectedly poignant and richly comic, The House of Tomorrow is a novel about the power of music, the exquisite torture of first love, and the many places we call home.

One of the main attractions of The House of Tomorrow is music. Much like the works of Stephanie Kuehnert and Cecile Castellucci, you can't really pick it up without a firm appreciation of music in general, or you'll come out of it confused and maybe a little put off.

But if you do, on the other hand, you'll be pretty at home in the House of Tomorrow.

So Sabastion lives in isolation with his eccentric grandmother in their "dome", tirelessly studying the works of a certain Buckmeister Fuller, a revolutionary thinker and his Nana's old lover. He rarely gets a glimpse of the outside world, except when tourists come in for a tour of his dome. During one of these tours, his Nana has a stroke and he is accompanied to the hospital by Janice Whitecomb and her surly son Jacob, the folks his Nana intended the tour to be for.

Fast forward several days, after a kind of bitchy Jacob introduces Sabastion to the world of punk music and he becomes more and more questioning of his Nana's controlling ways, Sabastion finds himself not only in a band, but homeless as hell too. This is probably the most you'll get out of me in plot because, despite the long-winded publisher's description, there really isn't much of a storyline going besides Jacob calling Sabastion names and many a-angstin' moment.

Since House doesn't really have much going by way of plot, the reader is left to fall back on the characters. And sometimes, I'll be honest, that is a lot more difficult then it sounds. Sabastion himself is fine, naive and so innocent it could be seen as creepy, but its Jacob and his sister Merideth and even Nana that rubbed me the wrong way. So, Jacob, he's a total douchenheimer, and I'm not liking it. He spends pretty much the entire book telling everyone what assholes they are for no reason, and he strikes me as the intended Holden Caulfield caricature, but it fails miserably, coming across as whiny and disrespectful. He often takes advantage of Sebastian's lack of knowledge of the world to make himself feel superior, and it sucks. But then again, he does have an absentee father and a transplanted heart.

Meredith is no better with her unneccassary belittling and moodiness. Seriously, this chick's bipolar. One minute, she's telling Sebastian what a freak he is, and the next she's crawling into his bed at night and bitching about her life. While she does kinda-sorta redeem herself by the end, I really could not see myself liking her anytime soon.

And then there's Nana. Oh, good lord, that woman. Her actions are never fully explained, and I have a feeling I don't want to know. Because she is the ultimate example of manic-depression and slight hero-worship turned to obsession, having the most horribly embarrassing effects on a child I've ever seen. She isolates her grandson after the death of his parents, turning him into a maladjusted, skinny, and awkward teenager. He talks like Stephen Hawking, and the entire time I was reading about her and shaking my head judgmentally. I would really have liked Bognanni to expand more on her character and give the reader a reason to sympathize with her, but she came off as a nasty old crazy lady until the very end. It was bad choice of motives, or lack thereof.

Sebastian himself, while advertised as a Holden Caulfield character, is everything but. Never is there a moment when he rebelliously questions his grandmother, or even the intolerable Jacob, at least not enough to warrant even Nicholas Sparks level of 'rebellion'. But that's not a bad thing. We've had enough JD Salinger knockoffs over the years, that Sebastian's unquestioning, innocent demeanor is pretty refreshing. He seemed to be the only character I really connected with and the only one I didn't want to smack across the face everythim they they crossed the page. His growth was as realistic as possible considering he grew up in a dome in the middle of nowhere.

Overall, The House of Tomorrow was a heartfelt, fascinating debut that, with a unique character that I have a feeling we haven't heard the last of.

Rating: 7 out of 10


Anna said...

Not sure this is my cup of tea, but those characters sure do sound interesting.

Diary of an Eccentric

Robby said...

This sounds wonderful. Really, really wonderful. I love the cover. :]

Template by:
Free Blog Templates