Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Little Children - Tom Perrotta Review

Published: January 2004
Rating: 3 stars

Reading Little Children was a fairly strange experience for me, because it’s definitely way out of my comfort zone. I’m used to YA, science fiction, dystopian, post-apocalyptic and some other things. I rarely read contemporaries but when I do they’re generally still YA. This one, not so much. It’s adult contemporary, and I’ll throw the word ‘comedy’ in there as well. But it’s disconcerting.

The thing about the books I read – let’s say science fiction and fantasy, for the moment – is that they’re escapist by nature. I mean, I’ve never experienced Earth in the 28th century, but I still loved Earth Girl by Janet Edwards. I don’t go to Hogwarts, but thanks to J.K. Rowling I could while I was reading.
What I love are ‘what-ifs’ – when one thing about our world is changed and the author lets it play out. So these books have a readymade hook – ’24 teens fight to the death on reality TV’, for example, or ‘Boy enters world of wizardry and magic and fulfils prophecy’.

 But mainstream adult fiction ... just doesn’t have that. I mean, if I had to come up with a one-liner for Little Children, it’d be something like ‘Mothers gossip at the playground and marriages break up.’

And yet I can understand why it’s called things like ‘a fascinating look into married life today’ or ‘a dryly humorous view of life with kids’. It’s a different form of escapism, I think. One where you aren’t taken to a place you’ve never seen before – instead, you’re shown the same old world and helped look at it through different eyes. So all these young mothers and married people and even those who are neither (like me!) see their lives reflected in the characters.

I didn’t find it a gripping book; I’d say it’s definitely a summer beach read. But it was enjoyable to read. It didn’t make a huge impact on me or blow my mind like lots of my YA books, but it was pleasant while I turned the pages. The problem I had was motivating myself to finish the book after I’d put it down for a few days – it doesn’t have the kind of magnetism of some other books, where you just have to finish it now.

It was also a bit rude in places, so if you’re under 18 and/or squeamish about that kind of thing maybe don’t go there. Nothing too heavy, just enough to make me a bit uncomfortable – again, because the relationships it depicted were adult ones, which are very different to their teenage equivalents. In fairness, I did ‘borrow’ this book off my mother, so...

Everything above I can deal with, because they were just small things that bugged me. But I have to say this: I hate the ending. Hate it. It’s just ... pointless. I won’t spoil the ending but I’m used to there being some kind of climax, a confrontation at least. Even in the most badly-written dystopian something large-scale has to happen. This novel just tailed off. It's a pity, because the pacing was great until then.

Damn it made me mad then. But sure look, Little Children was a NYT bestseller, and although it didn’t blow me away, I did like it. To each their own. My favourite part was probably the humour - Perrotta is excellent at funny snide comments, I must admit. 

So there you go. Sorry this is more a diatribe on adult contemporary in general than a review of Little Children, it just kinda happened. I’ve just finished Soon I Will Be Invincible and Nineteen Minutes, so reviews of them are on the way. I’m almost finished The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau which I ADORE. I’ve just started Fuse, the sequel to Pure by Julianna Baggott, so I’ll see how that goes. 

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