Saturday, April 7, 2012
Comedian Aaron Karo's new novel just hit shelves, and it's great. I hadn't heard of Karo before I picked it up, but I liked this YA debut enough for his previous books to secure slots on my reading list (Ruminations on College Life, Ruminations on Twentysomething Life, and I'm Having More Fun Than You).
Lexapros and Cons is fast-paced, uplifting, and laugh out loud funny. Seventeen year old Chuck Taylor with his hand sanitizer and color-coded Converse All-Stars is a sympathetic and memorable hero. His sarcasm and self-consciousness temper even the book's few stock moments: "I have become a cartoon character. I am literally hiding behind a bookshelf peering at Amy through an opening in the books. I'm toeing the line between spying and stalking... I glance up at what section I'm in. It's Women's Studies. Even the Dewey decimal system is mocking me."
That's probably Karo's closest call with cliche. For the most part, the book feels incredibly real. From the Indian guy who talks like Jay-Z, to Chuck's parents and his psychologist, Karo's characters are consistently on point, their mannerisms and idiosyncrasies not only palpable but familiar. And the love interest is decidedly more than just a pretty face.
It's also full of compassion for the complex emotions that accompany mental illness in young people while remaining staunchly upbeat. We take Chuck's problems seriously, but if Lexapros and Cons were a movie (and I'm sure it will be) it'd be PG-13 for language and acknowledging that teenage boys think about sex uncomfortably often, not for any dark content. I love that the novel manages to capture timeless adolescent concerns in the age of Google and Adderall without preaching to or belittling those who are caught up in it. And the clever chapter headings and snappy self-referential jacket are irresistible.
Published by Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux
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