Pride Month Book Reviews! #5: Noah Can't Even
Noah Can't Even
By Simon James Green
This book is like Arrested Development, but in contemporary Young-Adult novel form. I've seen so many negative reviews of it, saying that it's unrealistic, unbelievable, and ridiculous. Yes, it is. That's the point. I LOVED this book!
If you're going to read this book, go into it expecting an absurdist, borderline surreal depiction of high school. Everything is a hyper-cliche, while at the same time being too weird to be believable. But what's amazing about this is, the author never once breaks from this tone. I could see this book being a disappointment if we thought we were in some kind of realistic plot, but then suddenly the humor started getting weird. But the absurd tone and humor is held 100% throughout the book, which is why I found this so much fun to read.
Here's an example:
The opening scene of the book is our main character, Noah, who's stuck at the top of a climbing wall in gym class. A cliche buff female gym teacher in a track suit yells at him to get down, but he can't because he has a giant boner. Then while he's still up there, the super-hot promiscuous blonde girl from this class runs outside throwing around flyers for his mom's Beyonce tribute act. He later learns that his mom is banging a 19-year-old second-year senior at his high school, who Noah once peed on because he was peeing out his bedroom window. His mom is a terrible parent, borderline abusive, constantly neglecting Noah, but it's never taken that seriously. Think of Lindsay and Tobias from Arrested Development and how neglectful they are with Maeby. It's like that. No one ever faces consequences for their horrible actions, and every other sentence that comes out of Noah's mouth is awkward and cringey and makes you embarrassed for him. Many readers have criticized this, saying nobody could every possibly be as constantly awkward as Noah. No one could ever have to put in their mouth literally every time they open it. But that's the point. Everyone is a caricature.
This book is included in Pride Month Book Reviews because the main relationship is between two guys. Noah's best friend, Harry, announces toward the beginning that he's in love with Noah. The rest of the book, Noah has to decide whether he feels the same way about Harry. Meanwhile, Noah's senile grandmother wants him and Harry to get together, while also plotting an escape from her retirement home with a secret relative that Noah doesn't know exists. So, even though the romance is cute, the book never stops being weird to make way for it. This book is a brilliant example of tonal consistency.
So, do I recommend this book? YES! But I do not recommend it if you're looking for something realistic. If you're cool with something extremely stylized, then give this a read. You'll enjoy it.
Out of everything weird about this book, the thing that surprised me most was that it was published by Scholastic. This book has small indie press written all over it. But maybe the fact that it's written in British English makes it seem more normal to Americans? I'm not sure, haha!
Have you read this book? What did you think of it?
I have two books left in Pride Month Book reviews: one that I HATED, and one that I LOVED. So get ready for some serious emotions coming within the next few days!