Title: How to Buy a Love of Reading
Author: Tanya Egan Gibson
Release Date: May 14, 2009
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Satire
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
To Carley Wells, words are the enemy. Her tutor’s innumerable SAT flashcards. Her personal trainer’s “fifty-seven pounds overweight” assessment. And the endless reading assignments from her English teacher, Mr. Nagel. When Nagel reports to her parents that she has answered “What is your favorite book” with “Never met one I liked,” they decide to fix what he calls her “intellectual impoverishment.” They will commission a book to be written just for her—one she’ll have to love—that will impress her teacher and the whole town of Fox Glen with their family’s devotion to the arts. They will be patrons— the Medicis of Long Island. They will buy their daughter The Love Of Reading.
Impossible though it is for Carley to imagine loving books, she is in love with a young bibliophile who cares about them more than anything. Anything, that is, but a good bottle of scotch. Hunter Cay, Carley’s best friend and Fox Glen’s resident golden boy, is becoming a stranger to her lately as he drowns himself in F. Scott Fitzgerald, booze, and Vicodin.
When the Wellses move writer Bree McEnroy—author of a failed meta-novel about Odysseus’ failed journey home through the Internet—into their mansion to write Carley’s book, Carley’s sole interest in the project is to distract Hunter from drinking and give them something to share. But as Hunter’s behavior becomes erratic and dangerous, she finds herself increasingly drawn into the fictional world Bree has created, and begins to understand for the first time the power of stories—those we read, those we want to believe in, and most of all, those we tell ourselves about ourselves. Stories powerful enough to destroy a person. Or save her.
I was really intrigued by the idea behind How to Buy a Love of Reading. It incorporates a lot of contemporary ideas and issues I find very interesting, with a satirical twist. There is a teenager’s lack of interest in books and preoccupation with reality television, something that seems to be more and more prevalent today. Then there is the idea that if you have enough money, you can buy whatever you want, including a love of reading. These ideas fused together made me think How to Buy a Love of Reading would be a fascinating novel, and I’m glad to say I was right.
Besides these issues, How to Buy a Love of Reading deals with drug abuse, alcoholism, self-esteem and body image issues, eating disorders, and weight problems, among other things. It’s a social commentary on the wealthy, on their lifestyles and the problems they face because of it.
The characters in How to Buy a Love of Reading are incredibly well written and multi-faceted. Though they all seem to be shallow at the start, they acquire a depth as the novel progresses that is surprising. I absolutely loved Carley and Bree, while I found Hunter more and more despicable as the novel progressed (the author’s intention, I believe.) I loved learning about these characters and watching them develop lives of their own. They were wonderfully written, satirical characters that represented more than just themselves.
Admittedly, How to Buy a Love of Reading is slow at the beginning. It takes some time to build up the story and to establish the characters, especially since there are a lot of them. After 50 pages or so, the pace picks up quite a bit and it becomes engrossing and difficult to put down. If you are having trouble at the beginning, just stick with it!
The best part of How to Buy a Love of Reading was the emotion contained within. Though there is a larger commentary involved, the humanness of the story is what is most appealing about it. Gibson manages to mix satire with real humanity. It’s a great talent, and one that works very well within this novel.
I enjoyed How to Buy a Love of Reading and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys satire. Give this book a chance; it’s a well-written and engaging read that you won’t be able to put down!
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book to review!