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The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To

The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To

3.6 50
by D. C. Pierson

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A wildly original and hilarious debut novel about the typical high school experience: the homework, the awkwardness, and the mutant creatures from another galaxy.
When Darren Bennett meets Eric Lederer, there's an instant connection. They share a love of drawing, the bottom rung on the cruel high school social ladder and a pathological fear of


A wildly original and hilarious debut novel about the typical high school experience: the homework, the awkwardness, and the mutant creatures from another galaxy.
When Darren Bennett meets Eric Lederer, there's an instant connection. They share a love of drawing, the bottom rung on the cruel high school social ladder and a pathological fear of girls.  Then Eric reveals a secret: He doesn’t sleep. Ever.  When word leaks out about Eric's condition, he and Darren find themselves on the run. Is it the government trying to tap into Eric’s mind, or something far darker?  It could be that not sleeping is only part of what Eric's capable of, and the truth is both better and worse than they could ever imagine.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Funny as hell. . . . The ribald humor of a Judd Apatow movie married to a science-fiction-fantasy spectacle.”—Kirkus
“A witty coming-of-age novel. . . . In Darren and Eric, Pierson has created two engaging and memorable co-conspirators and co-protagonists.”—Booklist
"Charmingly honest and honestly funny. Nails what it's like to be a geeky teenage male, right down to the Agtranian Berserkers." —Max Barry, author of Company

"In a smart, funny and endlessly imaginative debut, the voluminously talented DC Pierson shows keen insight into the rocky emotional terrain of adolescence and the nuances of geek culture. Pierson has a sharp eye for the way teenagers think, talk and behave. The scope and depth of the novel's ambition don't become apparent until a riveting final third that radically reinvents the narrative as a sly, Unbreakable-style exercise in genre deconstruction. Pierson has written a trenchant, briskly readable and ultimately sad novel about the greatest, most fantastical and mind-bending adventure of all: growing up."—Nathan Rabin, Head Writer, The A.V. Club, author, The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought To You By Pop Culture

"Awesome stuff: great jokes, shocking twists, cyborgs. There's even some sex. It's fast-paced and funny and you should definitely check it out."—Simon Rich, author of Free-Range Chickens

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Darren eats his lunch alone. In class, he draws surreptitiously while the teacher is talking, creating a fantasy world he hopes to realize as a trilogy. Though he’s devised a system to keep his drawings unseen, Eric, another nerdy classmate, spies him at work one day, and they become co-creators of a project they call “TimeBlaze: An EVILution.”

But their relationship changes when Eric reveals a secret of his own. You see, Eric doesn’t sleep. Ever. While everyone else is recharging for the next day, Eric explores the neighborhood, reads, does his homework, and whips up elaborate lunches for school. Every so often, his insomnia catches up with him, and he spends a day hallucinating in the Arizona desert.

When word of Eric’s condition gets out, he and Darren are forced to go on the run from mysterious forces that want to “study” him. But what Eric never revealed is that his hallucinations become real, and now that his head is filled with Darren’s drawings and the world they’ve created, he fears a titanic showdown between the forces of good and evil. With the authentic voice of a teenager and a contemporary view from the bottom rung of the social ladder, Pierson’s debut novel (which is surely at least partly autobiographical) is destined to become a cult classic. Both hilarious and affecting, it’s a fast-paced novel filled with heart.

Publishers Weekly
Fifteen-year-old Darren Bennett lives in an entirely recognizable teenage world: he's obsessed with science fiction and video games, bullied by his older brother, and completely baffled by the opposite sex. On the other hand, Darren's new, socially awkward best friend, Eric Lederer, lives a life unrecognizable to everyone: Eric can't sleep, at all, ever, a revelation he shares with Darren in strictest confidence. After overcoming his shock, Darren delights in exploring Eric's anomalous condition through a series of trials involving, among other things, roofies. When a typical high school fight over a girl leads Darren to tell a stranger about Eric's bizarre secret, Darren is caught up in the kind of fight-for-your-life adventure he so often daydreams about. Combining a coming-of-age tale with science fiction, Pierson performs a nimble, satisfying balancing act, with enough drama of the day-to-day high school variety to keep the more fantastic elements in check. The result is a fast-moving narrative with an authentic, heartfelt voice, plenty of laughs and spot-on cultural references, and a raucous climax. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
Inspired first novel about a high-school misfit who freaks out when he discovers his best friend has an extraordinary gift. The trippy story begins with artistic dork Darren Bennett meeting a kindred spirit in the brilliant, equally geeky Eric Lederer. Before long they're collaborating on TimeBlaze, a multimedia epic incorporating time travel, an evil conspiracy and plenty of video-game-inspired imagery. But while the duo spends time working on primitive drawings (incorporated in each chapter), Eric confesses an enormous secret. Not only can he not sleep, leaving him plenty of time for homework and midnight exploring, but he's never slept. Oh, and every few weeks he enters a hallucinatory delirium. "You know that subconscious thing you were talking about?" Eric asks. (Darren has been discussing dreams.) "I think my mind just processes those things all the time behind the scenes. My imagination is something of a badass." It's all a big noodle-bender for his new buddy. "If Eric can exist despite the fact that Eric existing is impossible, then other things that are impossible can happen," says Darren in just one of his insightful, occasionally profane and hilarious OMG moments. A falling-out over Christine, girlfriend of first one boy and then the other, leads Darren to spill the beans on Eric's "thing"; soon a mysterious agent is out to capture the sleepless lad, leading to a big showdown and a genuinely unpredictable ending. A bit racy for younger readers, this geek-friendly comedy will appeal to mature teens and open-minded adults who get past the unwieldy title to find the ribald humor of a Judd Apatow movie married to a science-fiction-fantasy spectacle. Pierson is a member of DerrickComedy, a trio known for its YouTube videos and a feature film (Mystery Team) that premiered at Sundance in 2009; let's hope he saves some time for more books. Is it a teen-angst novel? Sci-fi? Funny as hell? All of those things and more.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.73(d)

Read an Excerpt


I’ve got a system to keep people from seeing what I’m drawing.

A thousand cartoons and TV shows and teen movies would lead you to believe that when you’re drawing something at your desk in school, a pretty girl is going to say “What are you drawing?” and you’ll tell her and she’ll go “That’s neat” and your artistry will reveal to her the secret sensitivity in your soul and she’ll leave her football-player boyfriend for you. These cartoons and TV shows and teen movies are wrong.

In my experience, a pretty girl never sees you drawing and goes “You’re an amazing artist.” In my experience a pretty girl sees you drawing and, if she says anything at all, she goes, “Wow, you’re a really good drawer.” Not drawer like where you put socks, but draw-er. Guys who are good at basketball are not described as excellent throwers, and dudes who are good at guitar are not called really good strummers, but somehow I’m a really good draw-er.

And the experience does not change based on what it is she catches you drawing in the margins of your math notebook or whatever. No matter how well you’re drawing it, there’s nothing good you can be drawing. You can’t win. If you’re drawing superheroes, that looks nerdy. If you’re drawing landscapes or things girls might actually like, like animals, that looks girly. If you’re drawing the female figure, you’re a pervert. If you’re drawing the male figure, you’re gay. If you’re drawing superheroes and you haven’t gotten around to drawing the masks or capes or whatever yet, you’re gay. Do yourself a favor: Don’t start with the muscles. Start with the rocketpack and work your way out. You’ll still be nerdy, but everybody knew that about you already. I mean, come on: you’re DRAWING.

And those “how-to-draw-comics” books? Fuck those books. Everybody saw those in their Scholastic book orders in second grade and now they assume I just ordered enough of those books, and that anyone could draw this well if they’d done the same. Well, they’re a little right. I did order like two of those books. And the first thing they teach you is this system of lines and shapes, to sketch out the bodies first before you fill in the details. Basically what you have before you start having anything that looks like anything is a page full of what looks like basketballs and potato sacks. The basketball-looking things are eventually gonna be heads and the potato sacks are eventually gonna be torsos, but when I was drawing based on those books, the guidelines would never really erase right and it always looked like all my characters’ limbs were built around a sack of potatoes with a superhero insignia printed on it, or like they’d just been nailed in the face with a superheated basketball. Anyway, the point is, fuck those books.

There’s this kid, Tony DiAvalo, who always makes a big show of being the kid who draws in class. He’ll use whatever time is left over at the end of the period and pull out his special pencils and his special pencil sharpener and this big fucking drawing pad and just start.

He’s good, I guess. Probably even good enough to justify all the supplies. But it’s just so goddamn showoff-y, and the things he picks to draw are just so inane. It’s all pop-culture stuff, never anything original. It’s always, like, one of those cartoon M&Ms except the M&M is wearing a doo-rag and smoking a joint and he’s written something underneath the M&M like “HUSTLIN’.” Kids think it’s hilarious. And I guess, if pressed, he would point to that joint and doo-rag as his “originality.” He’d probably have you believe he’s as original as someone who fills their notebooks with things they made up. All I know is he draws to be seen drawing, and he draws what people want to see. I guess I take back the statement that there’s nothing good you can be drawing: everybody seems to think preexisting cartoon characters smoking weed and counting money is pretty hilarious, and a good thing to hang in your locker.

One time his showiness got him in trouble and he got busted. Mrs. Cartwright the Spanish teacher saw three or four kids huddling around his pad in the last ten minutes of class when people are supposed to be working on their Spanish free-writing. They were behaving the way people usually do around Tony DiAvalo’s drawing pad, which is high-fiving each other, and Tony, and saying “Sick!” That’s way more excited than anybody ever is about Spanish free-writing, so Mrs. Cartwright rushed over, and saw on Tony’s pad an almost-finished depiction of Tommy from Rugrats as Scarface, complete with giant mountain of cocaine. She sent everybody back to their desks except for Tony, who she sent to the office, where he was written up for “advertising drug paraphernalia.” So now his M&Ms and his Spongebobs go jointless, though they’re still “HUSTLIN’.”

While I don’t pull out the big fucking pad, it’s not like I go behind a curtain or anything, either. I don’t make a big show of hiding what I’m drawing. That’s just as bad. I don’t cup my hand around the part of the notebook page or worksheet-back I’m drawing on. Made that mistake before. It just makes you look guilty. Someone is inevitably going to ask and you can’t say no because then it looks like you’re hiding something and when you do show them whatever you’re drawing it’s going to be interpreted with suspicion because it looks like you were hiding something. If this happens and what you’re drawing happens to be a girl, the kid you show it to will think it’s a girl in your class that you have a crush on. If this happens and you’re drawing a gun, the kid will think you want to shoot up the school. So I don’t hide it. Or I don’t make it look like I’m trying to hide it. Being super-obvious about hiding something is almost showing off. It’s almost worse. It’s like this fragile-genius thing I think would be disgusting. Like girls in the back of English class being very obvious about the fact that they’re writing tortured poetry. No one cares.

And that’s the thing, is that no one cares. No one cares but they will ask anyway, in this detached way, “What are you drawing?” and you know just by how they ask that they don’t care, and you wonder what the point is of explaining, because they don’t care and when you explain they won’t understand or even bother to try, but you’ll look like a creep if you don’t answer but you’re so upset by the fact of their even asking in this half-baked way that by the time you do answer you’ll come off like a huffy know-it-all, guaranteed, every time. So better, for everyone, to be subtle. Saves you from coming off weird and saves them their I-barely-give-a-shit-anyway energy.

I don’t get absorbed. I don’t hunch over and curl my tongue up like I’m super-concentrated. The time between when you’re finished with your work and class gets out would seem like the best time, because you can concentrate the most, but it’s actually the worst. I draw while the teacher is talking, because then everybody’s looking up at the front of the classroom, or at least they’re supposed to be. I look up periodically, just like everybody else. I jot down notes occasionally, just like everybody else. Every so often my pencil drifts over and draws the jawline of a face. Then it returns to its place and writes “GILDED AGE 1870–1890.” Then it drifts over again and draws a nose. Then it goes back and writes “COINED BY MARK TWAIN IN BOOK OF SAME NAME.” Then it puts a pair of sunglasses on the nose. I’m into sunglasses recently. They’re not as risky as eyes.

When there’s not a good reason for me to have my pencil up, I put it away. When that empty five to ten minutes at the end of class comes around where weaker men do their drawing and end up being interrogated by popular girls and pushy dudes, I pull out a book. I try to make it a book we were assigned, too. Fewer questions that way.
“What were you drawing?” somebody asks me when I’m four pages into The Great Gatsby, which we just went up to the front of the room to get our copies of.

“Huh?” I look up. Eric Lederer is standing over my desk.

“When Mrs. Amory was talking about our independent essay assignment. You were drawing something.”

“Oh yeah. It’s nothing.”

Eric Lederer and I have never talked, I don’t think. All I know about him is he looks like a nerd, turns everything in super-on-time if not early, and knows every answer to every question always and is not shy about raising his hand to prove it. Which makes him a nerd I guess. Cecelia Martin must know more about him than I do, because she’s looking at him like he just blew up a school bus and whispering to two girls next to her across the room. Looks like something along the lines of “That guy just blew up a school bus.”

“Can I see?” he asks. Having never paid that much attention to him, I haven’t until just right now noticed that there’s something strange about him. It takes me a second but I realize what it is: he’s standing really still. Right in front of my desk, both feet planted. No one stands this awkwardly sure of themselves except characters in my drawings, staring straight ahead with their arms at their sides, because when they start to move around I start to realize that those drawing books might have a point about form and motion, even if what their tips usually get me is a bunch of basketball-burned sack-bodied heroes.

“Sure,” I say. I open my notebook. Folded up inside is the bright orange sheet with the criteria for our independent essay assignment. The bright orange color will be a big help when I’m digging through my backpack the night before the essay is due trying to find the criteria so I know what the hell to write, the whole time swearing to myself I’m going to get some sort of organization thing going, but knowing I won’t as long as teachers keep printing the important stuff on brightly colored paper that stands out even when it’s shoved into my backpack with a roughness that says “I’ll never need this again!”

I smooth out the paper and hand it to Eric. In the bottom right-hand corner of the page, underneath big bold letters that say “WORKS CITED IN PROPER MLA FORMAT!!!” two men in suits and dark sunglasses are restraining a cybernetic caveman with electrified lassos.

“Nice monkey,” I expect Eric to say. Even with the best intentions people always get what I’m drawing wrong, and admittedly the caveman looks kind of monkey-ish.

“Nice cyborg,” Eric says.

“Thanks,” I say.

“Is this going to be a comic book?” he asks.

“No,” I say, “I was just doodling.”

“Oh,” Eric says.

I was trying to be dismissive because Eric being genuinely interested seems about as bad as Bret Embler or Carter Buehl being mock-interested. Here somebody across the room is staring at him like he blew up a bus, and I wonder if he has a reputation that I don’t know about that’s rubbing off on me just by being seen talking to him that will get me lots more attention from idiots. But I may have embarrassed myself just as much by using the word “doodling.” I look around, sort of like “does anyone know this kid? I don’t,” and see that Cecelia and her friends are still looking at Eric like, “That’s him, Officer, he’s the one who laughed when those kids who thought they were going to school went to Heaven instead.”

“You know that kid that always draws cartoon characters?” Eric says.

“Tony. Yeah.” He’s going to suggest Tony and I would make good friends since we both draw. Lindsay Skinner once told me Tony and I should be “drawing buddies.” Lindsay will never know what that remark cost her, and what it cost her was me asking her out, something I had been psyching myself up to do for weeks until the “drawing buddies” comment. So I didn’t get to stand in front of Lindsay’s locker and stutter out one of the eighty-five variations on “Do you wanna go do something sometime” I’d been weighing the pros and cons of, and Lindsay didn’t get to shoot me down.

“Do you think he’s good?”

“Tony’s alright, yeah.”

“Oh,” Eric says, the same way he said it when I told him I wasn’t drawing a comic book. “I think he’s awful.”

“Really?” I look around, this time to see if any of Tony’s friends are around. Then I realize Tony doesn’t really have friends, just what I like to think of as freak-show admirers.

“Yeah,” Eric says. “He never draws anything original. You originated these characters, right?”

“I mean, they’re just...y’know...doodles, but yeah.”

“I think that’s great,” Eric says. “I couldn’t draw anything, original or otherwise, if my life depended on it.”

“Yeah?” I say. “That sucks.”

“It does,” Eric says. He folds the sheet back up the way it was and gives it back to me.

The bell rings. Eric hustles back to his seat to get his stuff. I throw my notebook and The Great Gatsby in my bag and I’m out the door when one of Cecelia’s friends, Jen, catches up with me.

“Hey,” Jen says. “Do you...talk to that kid?”

I shrug. “I dunno,” I say. “Not really.”

“Oh,” she says, “never mind,” and starts off down the hallway.

Eric comes out of the classroom, his backpack way too high on his back.

“See you tomorrow,” he says. “I know it’s not a comic, but you should consider trying your hand at one. Seems like you have the chops, drawing-wise, along with the originality to not just sketch other people’s copyrighted material plus drugs.”

“It’s not a comic, but, uhm,” I say. “It’s actually a movie trilogy and a series of novels.”

“Awesome,” Eric says, breaking his weird stillness to hop just a little on his toes. It’s geeky but it’s pretty much the way I’d want somebody to react if they were the first person I told I was planning a movie trilogy and a series of novels. Eric is the first person. He says “awesome” again and we go off to fourth period in opposite directions.
“What’s it about?”

Eric is standing over me again the next day towards the end of third period. No “hi” or “what’s up” or anything, like our conversation from yesterday never ended.

“The movie trilogy and series of novels.”

“It’s sort of a lot to like, go into,” I say. “You know the loading dock by the auditorium?”

Meet the Author

DC Pierson was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ.  He graduated from NYU's Dramatic Writing Department in 2007 with a degree in writing for television. His comedy group DERRICK made a feature film called "Mystery Team."  He publishes short stories and unsolicited opinions on his website, dcpierson.com.  This is his first novel.

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Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had to 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
OneItalianFlower More than 1 year ago
The Good: This book was excellent. It is REALLY funny. The characters were incredibly realistic, the dialogue was perfect, the unrealistic parts somehow seemed just on this side of crazy that they weren't so outlandish. The Bad: The book dates itself (and is best for the 15-25 age group) because of the cohort in-jokes. There were a few parts in the last seventy pages or so that I had to re-read because they were written in a kind of confusing way. The In-between: The ending. It's absolutely perfect for the story and the circumstance. This book is all about what would happen if you really were in the situation, how real people would react, and the ending is really quite congruent with that. But in a way, it is totally unfulfilling because you want more or at least something different, a further exploration of the next few years of the characters lives. That being said, the ends are tied up well so you aren't left hanging. All in all, a great first novel with strong writing, characters, and plot. A great read, totally recommended (to people with a quirky sense of humor, non-prudes (because the sexually-based circumstances are very BAM in your face), and probably to people on the younger end of the spectrum).
CarolsCave More than 1 year ago
I don't want to create any spoilers, so I'll keep this general. I was so surprised by the authors writing style and originality on plot. This was so much fun to read and I really did not want to put it down. His writing style gives the reader a vested interest in the character who quickly become ourselves or high-school friends, but with alot more adventure. Loved it and will re-read it in a couple of years.
titania86 More than 1 year ago
The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To is told from the perspective of Darren Bennet, a sixteen year old boy whose dream is to create a series of films and novels based on a futuristic world of his own invention. One day, he is drawing in class when a strange boy named Eric Lederer asks what he's drawing and becomes interested in the world created by Darren. After weeks of sleepovers, hanging out, video game duels, and brainstorming to expand and improve the imaginary world, Eric reveals that he physically can't sleep. Of course Darren is incredulous at first, but then realizes that if Eric can exist, there is so much potential for other things thought to be fictional. After this revelation, their relationship goes as normal, until they stop being friends because of a fight over a girl. Out of anger, Darren tells someone about Eric's secret, leading to a search for Eric by an unknown organization and the adventure of a lifetime. The pacing of this book was weird in both a good and a bad way. The majority of the novel is about the meeting of the two boys, their relationship, the evolution of their fictional world, and their everyday lives. Even though not much plot happened during this portion, I still enjoyed it a lot. My normal reaction to slow, stagnant passages in novels is boredom, but I was oddly engaged with their lives. It read more as a peek into a real teenager's life than a science fiction/fantasy novel. The only weird thing in it was Eric's inability to sleep. I had some similar likes to the two boys, which made me easily relate to them. I liked Eric and Darren and grew concerned when they were pursued by obviously malicious forces. At this point in the novel, it goes a little downhill. I felt it could have been extended a hundred pages or more without dragging to properly explore an added perk to Eric's condition. In comparison with the previous portion, this part felt rushed and underdeveloped. I would have loved to read more and delve deeper into Eric and Darren's adventures. The closing pages were poignant and I both hated and loved it, which is the mark of a complex, meaningful novel. This novel was really funny and a blast to read. It had its flaws, but at its core was a wonderful journey with a couple of unlikely heroes.
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I read this book with allot of skepticism, but decided to give it a chance. It started out really slow and boring, but I didn't want to quit yet. Then out of nowhere it caught my attention and actually started to get funny and entertaining. Also at the same time it got weirder and weirder. As I was getting closer to the end it seemed that it would reach a great climax... but then it happened, it ended....horribly! The author had the chance to get really creative since he was going out there and have an epic battle like the characters wanted but he stole that with a crappy ending. I want my time back!
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