While reading the The Instructions

I’m a third of the way through Adam Levin’s doorstop The Instructions and I’m not yet sure what to make of it. It’s interesting. The characters are engaging, and easy to forget that they are meant to be middle schoolers  not yet likely old enough to have hair in their arm pits. They talk with eloquence, even when they are vulgar. There are moments where it feels more as if I am reading an adapted Shakespeare than the story of young children building up for war. That is a bit of a problem I have with the novel as a whole. It feels as if Levin has the ages and stages of his characters just off a bit. And it isn’t the language that does it. The protagonist, who may or may not be the messiah, repeatedly talks of love and places himself into situations that are clearly  beyond his years. This is a trick that can be pulled off. We saw it in the movies with Rian Johnson’s Brick where a gritty noir story line is paired up with high schoolers, but you never forgot that the characters were high schoolers. Johnson would continually drop little bits of life into the created environment, lending it a bit of reality. It kept the gimmick grounded.

With The Instructions, I haven’t gotten that (yet).  Maybe their childness will make itself known in the last two thirds of the novel, or maybe I’ll just see it differently as I trudge on.  I doubt the latter will happen, though, because this has become quite the sticking point for me. At some point, it doesn’t feel like I’m reading about children any more and that is one of the major points of interest for me. I care less about adults having these issues or speaking in such a way. The way the kids communicate isn’t far removed from how I hear many adults interact, especially in my work environment (academia). It’s just less interesting. However, while the idea of it gains interest when layered over children, transforming their day to day acts and lives into a bit more of high theater, it’s still a gimmick unless it means something, unless it accomplishes something, unless it gives does something to the story to give it greater depth.

so far it’s just window dressing. While it’s neat window dressing, while it’s fun, after awhile you get tired of looking at it. I’m getting tired of looking at it. Just 700 pages to go…


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