Gail Gauthier: But “The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep” Is Different
From: Original Content
August 08, 2012 at 07:39PM
There are a lot of misfit-boy stories out there. There are a lot of misfit-boy-who-likes-comics-or-some-other-formerly-outsider-interest out there. It’s a scenario that I probably liked the first few times I saw it, but, you know me. My tolerance for familiarity isn’t all that great. The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep And Never Had To by D.C. Pierson is very well done, but I almost gave up on it early on, because even though it is funny and poignant, lots of those misfit-boy stories are funny and poignant. I felt I’d read it before.
I stuck with it, though, and the payoff was that Pierson has mashed up that well known misfit-boy story with a science fiction tale. The science fiction aspect actually comes right out of the comic book world the main character, Darren, and his friend, Eric (the boy who couldn’t sleep), have been creating. This is what gives The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep And Never Had To a feel of the new. That’s what kept me reading.
Pierson is a subtle and impressive writer. An example: Darren, our main character, has an older brother who is like something out of A Clockwork Orange, which is mentioned at one point. (The brother is probably modeling himself on Fight Club, but I haven’t seen that, so I can’t be sure.) Big Bro’ really is repugnant. Yet, he goes to Outback with his father and younger brother every week. The three of them take off at Christmas time. In what passes as a generous act, he gives his younger brother drugs and doesn’t make him pay for them. In this chilling guy is something rather family oriented. A reader can feel that if he doesn’t get killed or imprisoned, he could turn out okay.
I found The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep And Never Had To in the YA section of my local library. Yet it appears to have been published as an adult book. It seems a YA book to me. Yes, Darren is telling his story after it occurs–a couple of years after it occurs, when he’s a freshman in college. We’re hardly talking a whole lot of adult perspective on the experience here. Yes, there’s a lot of rank language and drug use and some real sex, not just the thinking about it kind. I can’t recall having read a YA with drug use, but certainly rank language and sex appears in the genre. I can’t think of a real reason why this couldn’t have been published as YA. I do think it can be viewed as coming-of-age–“Oh, I had a life-changing, grown-up experience.” Personally, I think adult readers like that kind of thing more than teenagers do, so maybe these kinds of books get published as adult because that’s where their biggest fans may be.
Plot Project: I don’t think Darren’s story is about something he wants and struggles to get. It’s much more about a disturbance to his world–he finds out that his new friend never sleeps, is sort of a living and breathing science fiction character. What possibilities does that open?