Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson / My rating: ★★★☆☆
One sentence summary: College student Howie Jenkins gets a job at a craft shop with the intention of meeting girls and ends up falling for his (male) boss instead.
I remember, in the dim corner of my brain that hasn’t been switched off yet by Arthur’s touch, this poem I had to read for a class ages ago, one I liked the concept of, something about liking your body with someone else’s body because suddenly it’s so new a thing. I can’t believe I’m thinking about poems right now. Then again, maybe these are the moments that poems are for.
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
Plot: This book is cute and light and sweet. I read it while traveling and it was easy to pick up and put down in short intervals, and it doesn’t require a huge amount of investment. It’s a story of self discovery and acceptance, friendship and romance. I enjoyed it, but I did feel as if the plot was a bit immature coming from the point of view of a college guy (I’d read the first chapter or so with the assumption it was about a high schooler and was surprised when the narrator informed me he was 22). While the story is not complicated, the plot took certain turns sooner than I expected, which I felt the characters had not yet earned and I had not earned yet as the reader. I thought the story could do with a bit more tension at times and things were often settled more gently than I expected. This book is a bit rambling at times, it’s corny and stereotypical, but overall it made for a cute, light, simple read that I did enjoy.
Characters: The story is told from the narration of Howie, who is quirky and obnoxious, though he does possess a certain charm. The realizations and discoveries he made about himself happened rather fast, especially at the beginning of the book, and could have done with more angst or reflection. A lot of the characters are stereotypes, and it took me a while for them to grow on me, but I did enjoy the gentle development throughout the book. I thought Arthur’s character was a bit one dimensional and I kept expecting him to grow angry at how unfairly Howie treated him throughout most of the story, but he never did, which I think is where most of the simplicity of the book came from. Still, by the end of the book, I felt fond for most of the characters.
Writing: The narration of this book is where a lot of its strengths and weaknesses lie. Know Not Why had one of the quirkiest narrations I’ve ever read and it did a very good job at personalizing Howie’s voice, as I find that first person narration can often lack distinct personality. While I did find it to be very entertaining, a lot of the time it was a bit too much and could be exhausting. It was funny – it made me laugh – but every other line was a quip or a joke. Sometimes I found myself skimming over large paragraphs, particularly inner monologue or dialogue I knew weren’t going to contain anything important. I enjoyed the writing of this book, but think it could have done with some toning down.
Was I satisfied? I picked this book up after reading a glowing review, which gave me high expectations that were not quite met. I also picked it up because I wanted something light to read, and in that regard, it got the job done. It was a cute book, and left me feeling a cheesy warm feeling in the end. I liked it.
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