By Peter Bognanni
Available now from Amy Einhorn Books (Penguin)
I find myself at a point where I'm impatient. As a child, I would read a book to the end, no matter what. As a teenager, I read through the first hundred pages, at least. Now? If I'm in the mood to read, I want something that has me clicking along by the first few pages. I don't have time to waste. Peter Bognanni didn't even try to waste my time. Within a few pages, I understood the relationship between Sebastian Prendergast and his grandmother. There's something uncomfortably close about them, but she's controlling and he's growing older and chafing. And then she has a stroke, right when he meets Jared Whitcomb and his mother.
The sheltered Sebastian is an interesting creation. He's been raised like an experiment, but eventually Frankestein's monster has to go out and meet the girl. Punk music is the perfect vehicle for his growth. Punk, despite it's DIY, no-need-to-know-about-music attitude, often isn't for beginners. It's too much a reaction to other stimuli. But I totally believe that a teenager who needs to express something that's his, not his grandmother's, would be seduced as much by punk as by a fellow geek and the fellow geek's hot sister.
I'm a fan of character-driven works. If there are enough convincing relationships going on, the plot becomes a bonus rather than a desparately needed framework. As much as I love unintenionally funny Sebastian (on the character's part, not the author's), I also love the Whitcombs. Janice, Jared, and Meredith have all been through the wringer, but they want their family to be happy. They all try to martyr themselves a little for the sake of the others, but all of their ploys just intersect to make the household tense. Sebastian shakes them up just enough for them to see the ruts they're about to fall into.
But back to the music. I love music and I love reading about it. Some authors write music like they've never seen an instrument. Others, like Stephanie Kuehnert and Maggie Stiefvater, write it like it flows through their veins and drips out from under their fingernails. (For some reason, reading poetry* makes me want to get figurative.) Peter Bognanni can write music. Once Jared and Sebastian form the Rash, they have to figure out something to play. Yet no matter how terrible their lyrics seem, I would love to see them perform. The music reads as fun and consuming.
THE HOUSE OF TOMORROW is a polished story about people with raw edges. There are crushed hopes and living dreams. There are characters straight out of an indie film who act like people you might meet in real life. It's an absorbing book that ends to soon. Everything came to a conclusion, but I could've kept reading. THE HOUSE OF TOMORROW kept me firmly in what I was doing in the present.
*The poetry is William Wordsworth's PRELUDE. THE HOUSE OF TOMORROW is not in verse.