"No man should have to tell his son that his wife had an orgy with a nun and two groundsmen".
With lines like that, you'd expect How I Paid for College by Marc Acito, to be pretty funny, or at least unusual. And it was both. It was also irritating as all get out.
First, I should have read the dustjacket better. The dustjacket sold me on the book because it is one of the worst I've seen. Pink and yellow and green. The colors are absolutely hideous. If you went to buy a house with those colors, you'd ask them to knock a few thousand off the asking price because you'd be repainting the day after you made settlement.
In addition to the colors, there's a little picture of a Buddha next to the first line of the subtitle. The first line is "A novel of Sex". Buddha and a novel of sex? The rest of the subtitle reads "Theft, friendship & musical theater". Sounds promising, right?
If you read the dustjacket, which I didn't, the author is "Hailed as the gay-Dave Barry" and his first-person tone is likened to that of David Sedaris. Hmmmm, why Dave Sedaris, I wonder? Are they really the two guys known for their first-person tone? Or does the comparison maybe have to do with the fact that they're both gay? Gee, I wonder.
I hate that. Normally I'll put a book back when the book or the author is compared to someone else. If I want to read something like David Sedaris, I'll read Sedaris, thank you. And I'm not sure what would make a gay Dave Barry write differently from Dave Barry. I can't say I've ever read anything by David Barry where his sexual preference had anything to do with his writing.
Back to the book. There were a lot of irksome things about it. The main thing, to me, is that the book was set in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1984. Not somewhere you think of as progressive, but Hoboken, New Jersey. Home of Bon Jovi, the Boss, etc. Why is this a problem? Because every character in the book is either gay, lesbian or bisexual and semi-open about it. Really? In Hoboken in 1984? You're going to make a move on a football player, offering to go down on him while you're a high-schooler theatre guy in Hoboken in 1984. Uh huh.
The worst part of it is I don't really know why this had to be set in 1984. Well, outside of the fact that Acito was 18 in 1984. So maybe I'm wrong. Maybe he lived in a progressive area during the Reagan Era. I don't know.
As I looked up Acito's birthdate I discovered that this book was voted a top ten Young Adult book by the American Library Association in 2005. What the heck?!?! I need to finish a non-kid work of fiction.
I also didn't like Acito's endearing references to people. Someone will say or do something and the narrator will go "Paula". Or "Kathleen". Or "Doug". Just the person's name. Goofy and irritating. And incredibly, incredibly overdone.
Up to this point, you'd think I hated this. But I liked it. It was hard to put down. The chapter breaks were ideal in that Acito would end most chapters with something happening that made you have to start the next chapter. It was funny. I laughed out loud many times. But the whole thing was just incredibly uneven and quite far-fetched at times.
I still don't know whether or not I liked it. I guess I have to say I definitely sort of liked it and could possibly recommend it but probably wouldn't be likely to. Fair enough?
You know what? I didn't even mention what this was about. Theatre guy is talented, auditions for Julliard, gets in and is all jazzed to go. His Dad marries this crazed German photographer who prevents the Dad from paying for Julliard, largely because she's a golddigger. Theatre guy panics and tries to come up with ways for paying for it. These ways include theft, blackmail, embezzlement. Good times. In the end, new age Mom, who had been off in South America doing who knows what, returns and has the solution as to how to narrator should pay for it. Thus the title.