Grab on to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way

Grab on to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way

4.2 9
by Bryan Charles
     
 

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A wise, bighearted, and hilarious look at one teenager's life by a remarkable new voice in contemporary fiction

It's 1992, and as Vim Sweeney deals with the recent end of his high school career and the uncertainty of his future, America shares his angst. In Seattle, Kurt Cobain reeks of teen spirit. In Washington,

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Overview

A wise, bighearted, and hilarious look at one teenager's life by a remarkable new voice in contemporary fiction

It's 1992, and as Vim Sweeney deals with the recent end of his high school career and the uncertainty of his future, America shares his angst. In Seattle, Kurt Cobain reeks of teen spirit. In Washington, George Bush (the first one) has just finished rattling his saber at Saddam Hussein. And in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Vim is trying to put off adulthood and all that comes with it, whatever that is, for as long as he can. He's already juggling guitars, girls, and a long-absent biological father who's suddenly making noise about Wanting to Be Involved. And he still can't convince his friends why local schoolboy hero Derek Jeter is bound for obscurity.

Grab On to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way traces Vim's stumble toward adulthood as he comes to terms with his parents, balances friendships and infatuation with varying levels of success, and accepts that the things he thought would last forever probably won't. Generous in spirit and laugh-out-loud funny, here is a novel that introduces a tremendous new talent and deftly captures the alternately amusing and harrowing process of holding on until you find your way.

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Editorial Reviews

Sam Lipsyte
“As brave and funny a debut as I’ve read in a long time.”
Thomas Beller
“Shoots into you like a bolt of electricity, sparking all kinds of excited feelings about art and life and writing.”
Elizabeth Crane
“Charles will get inside your brain and make sense of it for you once and for all.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Poetic...will invite comparisons to Nick Hornby, but let it be said that Charles does it his way.”
Washington Post
“Funny and unpredictable...(Charles) proves impressively adept at capturing the inchoate ache of adolescent longing.”
Booklist
"Poetic...will invite comparisons to Nick Hornby, but let it be said that Charles does it his way."
Publishers Weekly
Recent high school grad Vincent Sweeney, though unmistakably sweet, also masquerades as crass, courts his own demise by baiting bar thugs, nurses rock star fantasies with his band, Judy Lumpers (it's grungy in 1992 Kalamazoo, Mich.), and plays indifferent after losing his virginity in a one-night stand. After flippantly quitting his dishwashing job, Vim (from a childhood mispronunciation) runs up against his stepfather's blue-collar bitterness with quiet acceptance and embarks on a short-distance road trip. Fits of rage and exaggerated lust, tinged with self-loathing, erupt from within a searing numbness, which puzzles Vim, and which he parses using lyrics from the like of Jim Morrison, Fugazi and Nirvana. Charles, in this debut, gives Vim an unevenly self-aware first person, making large portions of the book read like a vague, angry diary; they're dull, but come through as convincingly natural and make moments of connection (as with a bandmate's girlfriend) take on a special glow. (June 16) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Vim Sweeney takes his place in the long list of fictional characters is search of themselves. His journey centers on Kalamazoo, MI, in the summer of 1992, after his high school graduation. He works as a dishwasher, plays in a band, lusts after his best friend's girl, and tries to figure out his relationships with those around him, including his father and stepfather. The novel was written shortly after 9/11, although the existential questions it asks are more those of teen lit than of apocalyptic fiction. Told in Vim's voice, the chapters are short and choppy, although first-time author Charles is very good at capturing the way teenagers speak to one another. The dialogue is filled with bravado and expletives, which the characters use to mask their insecurities and uncertainty about their future, and even, perhaps more so, their present.-Nancy Brown, Fox Lane High School, Bedford, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Divorced parents are confusing, girls are confusing, bandmates are confusing, living in Kalamazoo is confusing-and so on. Back before it was marketed as a lifestyle option for overly sensitive poetic teens, "emo" signified an unusually ascetic, self-lacerating brand of punk rock. Vim Sweeney, the hero of this debut novel set in 1992, is a member of that tribe: He's 17, just out of high school, and plays guitar in a band, the Judy Lumpers, that allows him to vent his anxieties about feeling aimless in the sticks. His home life is cracked but stable-dad's absent, but his stepfather is a sturdy wage-earner with a ready arsenal of platitudes about the value of hard work. So Vim's biggest worry is erasing his status as a virgin, though hooking up with Helene, his bandmate's girlfriend, wasn't his wisest move. Charles captures this milieu in elegant, poetic and sometimes overly florid language-he has an affinity for long strings of run-on prose that gush about love and fear of the future, though he'll also knock you back with a taut bit of abstraction. (Complete text of chapter 69: "Time like wave after wave eroding us.") Charles introduces a host of relatives, scenesters and quirky locals, jumping from noisy punk shows to dull dinners with mom and stepdad at the Olive Garden, and his tone and imagery does an impressive job of capturing the moment when you're so eager to get out of your adolescence you're fit to burst. But the storytelling is oddly static, and too often Charles expends his energy fussing over the finery of his prose instead of moving the story forward. Readers born on the cusp of Gens X and Y could use a spokesperson who can do better than crack jokes and make cool bandreferences, and Charles seems eminently qualified for the gig. But he's not there yet. A talented writer earnestly searching for a story to tell.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060882983
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/13/2006
Series:
P.S. Series
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
1,088,881
Product dimensions:
7.92(w) x 10.56(h) x 0.61(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Grab On to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way

A Novel
By Bryan Charles

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Bryan Charles
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060882980

Chapter One

When you grow up you can be anything, they said, but that's a lie too. So I go to band practice and plug in the Twin Reverb, the Stratocaster, and the noise is a beautiful plane crashing into my face. So I make a gun with my finger and thumb and aim heavenward. So I dream of a landscape, this one, darkened by the slow rolling shadows of cloud-sized tits.

Continues...


Excerpted from Grab On to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way by Bryan Charles Copyright © 2006 by Bryan Charles. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Thomas Beller
“Shoots into you like a bolt of electricity, sparking all kinds of excited feelings about art and life and writing.”
Sam Lipsyte
“As brave and funny a debut as I’ve read in a long time.”
Elizabeth Crane
“Charles will get inside your brain and make sense of it for you once and for all.”

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