Amanda Gates

Books: A Visit From the Good Squad & One Day

I decided to blog about these two books together because throughout most of each of them, I felt pretty much the same way: Creative concept, hateful characters.

A Visit from the Goon Squad

First, here’s what I wrote on Goodreads after I finished it a few months back:

“So, I give this a big 'eh.' The execution is clever, with chapters about different characters at different time periods all connecting in weird ways. A chapter completely in PowerPoint - kind of brilliant and I actually loved that. A chapter written like a profile about a celebrity you could find in Esquire – also clever. However, the characters? JERKS. Every last one of them. And as I started each chapter and each new person was another psycho, weirdo, inconsiderate d-bag, I just didn't care one bit. I kept reading, hoping to care about SOMEONE, but alas I was just thankful it was over.”

I hold to my initial review. I imagine this book, written in this format, about characters I would actually like and care about, and wow, it would’ve been amazing then. However, I did read an article about the author, and while I still hate everyone in the book (OK, except Stephanie. I could maybe like Stephanie.), discovering that each character’s story is like an A Side and a B Side to their life… well, again, clever, very, very clever.

Of course, Egan will win the Pulitzer and I’ll look like the jerk, but there are plenty of things people love that I just don’t get (i.e. The Simpsons & Mumford & Sons).

One Day

This was one of the first Kindle books I bought last year, but then everyone hated on it and told me not to read it, so I didn’t. But, there comes a day when you’re desperate for something to read on the bus, so I started it. Like Goon Squad, the execution is very interesting: telling the story of two people by only focusing on one day (July 15) of every year (for like 20 years). That part of it I really, really enjoyed. It’s refreshing to read a book about someone’s life that isn’t just perfectly chronological. One day every year, and as a reader I didn’t really think I was missing anything in between.

However, again, the characters. While I did enjoy Emma and her self-deprecating humor and her wanting to be a writer and loving the same man for many years (many of us are/were an Emma), Dexter was not likeable at all. I would want to take him and shake him for being so drunk and slutty and insulting and hateful all the time. And why was Emma even his friend? I found myself skimming his parts, particularly in the middle of the book, just disgusted with his behavior.

I didn’t give up, and in the end, I’m glad I didn’t. I actually thought the ending helped redeem the book. Dexter became a better person (and Emma remained true to herself) and some of the emotions he felt at the end of the book truly resonated with me. Maybe this was a book about Dexter’s journey and we were meant to hate him lots of the time. I don’t know. Obviously, because I hated him and skimmed much of the middle of the book, that still makes it just OK for me.

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