Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Adorably Epic Boy Who Swam With Piranhas

This is the second book that I read for the work blurb. It's written by David Almond who is probably best known for Skellig. Well, I've never read Skellig but I have read Heaven Eyes and I recall finding the book very odd, even if I don't remember anything about it at the moment.

So, initially what draw my attention to The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas wasn't Almond's name but 1. the fact that it's illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, who I have a lot of love for and 2. That I have a thing with piranhas. I was interested but I hadn't really planned to pick it up, or at least not for a while. Then of course the gift guide blurb assignments came out.

So, I added it to the reading list.
The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas isn't the kind of story that you break down into elements exactly. It's a fun story but the characters aren't really characters, more ideas. That being said, it's a fun story. It's the kind of book that would make a perfect read-aloud. It's funny and silly but still has a lot of heart.

Even with the funny, silly, heart-ness of it the book is a bit on the dark side. Our unsure hero, Stan's uncle fries and cans his goldfish in the middle of the night. A strange, ridiculous, government agency called DAFT comes and shuts the home-run fish canning factory down and throws Stan's aunt and uncle out on the street.

I found the mix of the elements really rather odd. There are some strange half-developed ideas of family and learning to embrace who you are. But none of these ideas really hit home when so many other things are going on.

It's an interesting multi-layered story. The traveling fair Stan joins throws life lessons and grand ideas at him from every direction. But then there's Nitasha whose mother runs away and who is bitter about it but then less bitter and angry after a day with Stan. And Stan who is a fish affinity, and loves goldfish but will swim with piranhas. And then the gypsy woman who pops in and tells him the moon with lead his aunt and uncle to him. And at the end the author leaves the fate of the DAFT agents up to the reader. It's kind of all over the place.

The end was nicely ambiguous with the aunt and uncle showing up to see Stan take his dive with the piranhas but never saying what happens to them. Then it's pushed over the edge by the narrator randomly going to Siberia to see a side character's mother who may come home. It almost became saccharine at the end. Almond tried to hard to add one last life lesson into the mix.

It was enjoyable and fun but I felt like a lot of stuff was going on, maybe too much stuff.

Overall, I give The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas a rating of Sort of Epic.

I wanted to love it but I just wasn't feeling it.

Next I'm getting back to Tamora Pierce with Magic Steps, the first in the Circle Opens series. And I will write my post for Alex in the next couple of days, as well as my post for Daja's and Briar's books. I will.


Until next time,


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