Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Book Review: Cybils Finalist, Alvin Ho
Alvin is afraid of
and so many other things.
And so afraid is he that
he cannot talk at school.
He has no problems talking at home, with his friends, even friends from school. But something happens at school: his thoughts refuse to come out of his mouth as words.
His family accepts it.
His friends accept it.
He accepts it.
But nobody understands it.
But Alvin used to be a super hero, and he has Da Dad for a dad and Da Mom for a mom, a cool gunggung, and siblings who are are pretty okay to him (even if they did leave him hanging like a roast duck in a tree for hours.)
So Alvin makes plan to overcome his problems. He packs emergency supplies, asks for advice on how to make friends, and even goes to a therapist.
But not being able to talk at school turns out to be just one of many things Alvin has to deal with, such as:
how to be a gentleman,
how to be nice to old friends, even when they are girls and talk too much,
how to express himself without using the fake Shakesperean cusswords favored by his Daddy.
For a book whose title is Alvin Ho: allergic to girls, school and other scary things and one that starts with a whole list of scary things, it is a remarkably sunny book. You can't help but cheer for him and have your cynicism parked somewhere else for a while.
Unlike most books, this one doesn't set out with a Major Conflict that the Character Has To Overcome by the end of the book. There are a number of conflicts sprinkled throughout in the book but by the end of the book he still doesn't talk at school and he still has his fears.
Yet the story is completely satisfying. It's so refreshing to read a book that doesn't sound familiar in that overly work-shopped, let's-follow-what-the-pros-say-about-characterplotsettingvoicepointofview vibe. Sure it contains the essence of all the good advice out there: voice, character, conflicts, and spins it into a new mold.
I love this book. And I happen to know quite a few otherwise happy boys who have fears that seem incomprehensible. The snippets of Alvin's life will be so reassuring to them, especially because the book doesn't neatly end with Alvin overcoming all his fears and solving all his problems. Yet it is clear that Alvin has grown. The sense of hope that permeates the book will surely rub off on my young friends.