Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mice by Gordon Reece

Librarian Nancy Pearl has a general rule about how much time to give to a book you're not sure you want to finish. According to Pearl, you should subtract your age from 100 and use that number as a guide for how many pages to read; if the book hasn't grabbed you by that point, that's your clue to put it down and move on to the next title in your stack.

I almost followed Pearl's rule with Gordon Reece's "psychological thriller" (as it's touted by the publisher)
Mice, which will be released in the U.S. on August 11th. As it turns out, I labored through my allotted 66 pages and a handful more, before a passage in which the book's teenaged narrator describes yearning for new experiences "as the butterfly in the chrysalis yearns to spread its fragile wings and fly" finally made me throw in the towel. In short: it was not for me.

Mice tells the story of Shelley, a high school student who, upon being tortured by a group of bullies, withdraws from school and moves with her mother to a private cottage in the countryside. Shortly after the move, Shelley's quiet retreat is abruptly shattered by a drunken burglar who breaks into their home. While the story sounded interesting to me (and timely, as far as the bullying issue goes), I couldn't get past how much I did not enjoy the author's style. Very much a "teller" rather than a "shower," Reece spends full pages detailing, for example, the types of movies that Shelley and her mother do and do not favor, or the musical pieces they perform to pass the time of day. Reece seems particularly interested in the ways that Shelley and her mother resemble the titular "mice," listing again and again all of the personality traits that render them mouselike: "Mice are never rude. Mice are never assertive." And so on, and so on.

Since I didn't finish the book, I obviously can't speak to the publisher's promise that the book's bullying narrative ultimately transforms to "an edge of your seat story of fear, violence, and family loyalty," but I can say that after about 100 pages, I remained definitively ungripped. Because of that, I would not recommend this novel.

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