Tommy Wallach, the New York Times bestselling author of the “stunning debut” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) We All Looked Up, delivers a brilliant new novel about a young man who overcomes a crippling loss and finds the courage to live after meeting an enigmatic girl.
“Was this story written about me?”
“Yes or no?”
I shrugged again, finally earning a little scowl, which somehow made the girl even more pretty.
“It’s very rude not to answer simple questions,” she said.
I gestured for my journal, but she still wouldn’t give it to me. So I took out my pen and wrote on my palm.
I can’t, I wrote. Then, in tiny letters below it: Now don’t you feel like a jerk?
Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things left worth living for.
From the celebrated author of We All Looked Up comes a unique story of first and last loves.*
In terms of subject and style, this book is similar to ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL; in terms of the emotional depth and complexity and life-changing passages, THANKS FOR THE TROUBLE is on par with John Green’s novels.
Told over the course of three days, this is the story of a boy (Parker) rendered mute by a terrible accident that left his father dead and how his life is changed by a mysterious girl he meets in a hotel cafe. It may sound like it will be a cliche love story–boy meets girl, girl changes boy, boy and girl live happily ever after, etc.–but it is far from it. What it does have is a fantastical element in the form of Zelda, who claims to be immortal.
None of the conventional love tropes really apply to these characters and while it is written in a voice for teens, the topics covered are extremely philosophical and mature in nature. The idea of immortality, the question of what makes a person get out of bed every morning and decide that life is worth living, and the process of grief and having to let go of people you love are all things that are dealt with extensively and beautifully in this novel.
I underlined a number of passages that I wish had been around for me to read in high school when I was first starting to really think all of these things through and hit what I naively thought was my peak existential phase. I think this will be a really treasured read for both reflective teens with these kinds of thoughts on their minds and all adults, who–as Wallach’s character adeptly notes–are essentially young people trapped in an aging body.
I gave this book a 5/5 and will likely go back and reread it in the future, or at least flip through the highlighted passages every now and again to remind myself of some of the unique perspectives on life–and death–that Wallach offers through Parker and Zelda.
My one and only “complaint” about this book is that there isn’t an album to go along with it, like there was with WE ALL LOOKED UP! If you haven’t checked out Tommy’s debut novel and the songs he wrote and recorded to go along with it, what are you waiting for?! They’re amazing!
*Synopsis and cover image are from Amazon.com.