It’s just me and him. Him and me. A man I can’t comprehend, designated by the universe as my father but someone I prefer to call Tom, and a kid he can’t relate to but calls son anyway because he’s determined to try. I really wish he’d just call me Tyler.
He probably wishes I’d call him Dad.
But I’m not comfortable with that at this point.
Our differences and our lack of mutual understanding are the only things we seem to agree on. And even those get heated sometimes.
Seriously, it’s a miracle that we haven’t hurt each other yet.
I’m not sure how much longer we can hold out. – Back Cover
This is the story of a 17-year-old boy, Tyler, who has just lost his mom to cancer, and is left with a father he has never connected with, who is in as much pain as he is. The two can’t even communicate without fighting – much less console one another. And so the agony both feel widens the gap separating the two, and their house becomes a place of tension and memories tinged with loss and grief.
Tyler’s only escape is music. He’s an incredibly talented guitarist, and his band, The Nothings, is where he goes to avoid dealing with the things he can’t change and can’t face.
As the story progresses he is led to a discovery that will change the little bit of his old life that remains. A box of journals, hidden in the garage by his mother before her death reveals a secret Tyler had never suspected, one that will turn him inside out.
It’s not a happy story, obviously. Tyler is a very messed-up kid. He’s got a lot on his plate, and has no idea how to begin dealing with it. His relationship with his father is a source of tension and frustration to them both and his mom’s death is still fresh.
This story… man. It’ll definitely hitcha in the feels. But the first impression I had of this book was really hating most of the characters.
You’re set up not to like Tom much – he seems harsh, insensitive, and unreachable. But as I read I started to see that a lot of his tough exterior masks a deep discomfort with emotions – particularly his own. By about halfway through I mostly felt sorry for the guy.
Chelsea, Tyler’s girlfriend, seems nice enough, but comes off as a bit of a nag. Not only that, but she’s always telling him off about how he treats his dad. Her ability to put herself in the shoes of a parent was completely unbelievable to me given that she’s supposed to be seventeen. Which somewhat ruined her character for me, since all she seems to do is turn Tyler on and then tell him off. Tyler is totally smitten with her, but aside from him talking about how great she is, we don’t get a chance to see anything special about her.
Tyler himself I started off liking, but liked less and less for about the first half of the book. He’s a bit of a dickhead. And he knows he’s a dickhead, he talks about how he knows he shouldn’t do things… and then does them anyway. (Which, by the way, didn’t really ring true to me. Teenagers who lash out and stubbornly push people away don’t know that’s what they’re doing and do it anyway. The whole point is that they often act out because they lack the self-awareness and experience to understand and modify their behaviour.) He got better in the last half of the book, though, so by the end I cared about him and felt for him.
As for the story itself, it exists within the relationships. The plot is moved along by interactions, and is more about what’s happening in Tyler’s head than anything else. There were times when this was difficult – particularly at the beginning of the book when I just found Tyler to be an insensitive jerk. But it got better as the story got more interesting. I have to admit that I guessed where the story was going pretty early on (don’t worry, I won’t tell), but that didn’t detract from the impact of events as they unfolded.
By the end of the book I was totally drawn in. I couldn’t stop reading, and I couldn’t help but feel pretty emotional over the conclusion. I wish that the tone of the last half of the book had been there right from the beginning. If it had, this would have been a really powerful book. I liked the complexity of the emotions the characters experience. I liked that Tyler felt more like a real teenager (aside from his weird moments of self-reflection) than a lot of others I’ve encountered recently in YA books – and that this book doesn’t try to whitewash his language or life. It’s messy. It’s dirty. It’s full of profanity and huge mistakes.
It’s definitely and easy book to get into, and I fount myself drawn in and eager to find out what would happen next. This would be a great read for those who like their books full of interpersonal drama and emotion.
Check out Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing for yourself – and it’ll only cost ya 99 cents until January 15!
Author: Steven Luna
Edition: Review Copy (E-Book)
Published By: Booktrope Editions
Released: August 13, 2013
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
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