The First Bad Man by Miranda July
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The First Bad Man is a rather quick and easy read - as long as crazy doesn't slow you down. I received an advance reader's edition so I am not including the various errors in the book. (Such as the sentence "Suntan Lotion." tagged on the end of a paragraph on pg. 229.) I assume that they will be corrected in final copies.
As I mentioned this book is a bit on the crazy side. Much of it is the inner dialogue of the main character, Cheryl. Her grasp of reality at the beginning is tenuous at best. Her world seems to mostly be built on fantasy and as such her role in reality receives little attention. Through a series of events she is dragged into the real world which made me feel a bit like this was a coming of age story of a 40 year old.
The side characters while receiving minimal page time make their personalities well known. They are all people that readers will relate to as well. People who are mysterious, shallow, judgmental, fake, they are all faces we see daily. And while our protagonist grows throughout the book into a new person all of these side characters are not forgotten and they are true to the paths that they are on.
I think one of the main things that this book is trying to tell the reader is that to grow as a person you need to stay open to new options. Just because the current situations fills some of your needs doesn't mean you should stay there hoping for more. Move on. Let go of the things you can't have and find something new to persue. Better yet, find a way to rearrange the things you have in a way that will make you happy. If Cheryl's life wasn't invaded by a completely overbearing personality that shoved her out of her comfort zone, she would never have found her way to the good things she finds in her life.
I am undecided about how I feel about the Epilogue. Part of me feels it was written to show that all of Cheryls oddities are validated. Part of me wonders if it is just her dream (which I always think is a cop out and would be most disappointing.) But if it's real why is Clee there? But if it's a dream why is it not from Cheryls point of view? It is probably me making something simple complicated - but I can't help but wonder just what it is there for. Maybe that just means I need to read it again!
Final thoughts - I know just who I am passing this book to next, which means I do recommend it. However I would recommend for adult readers. Things are a bit . . . messed up for the teen reader.
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