Youth in Revolt - C.D. Payne
I have not seen the film which this book spawned, but I can already tell you that Michael Cera is horribly miscast in it. Nick Twisp, the protagonist of Youth in Revolt, has little of Cera's stock in trade awkwardness and none of his sweetness. Truth be told, I did not like Nick Twisp. Nor did I like The Object of His Affection, Sheeni Saunders. I kept thinking to myself, you two deserve each other.
Both characters are capable of great cruelty. Sheeni manipulates every male she encounters. She is a Siren masquerading as a pseudo-intellectual fourteen year old. Prior to meeting Sheeni, Nick was a decent enough thirteen year old, ruled by his masturbatory tendencies, but loyal to his friends and somewhat sweet in his Frank Sinatra-loving geekiness. After meeting Sheeni, Nick's efforts to get together with The Woman He Loves lead to an escalating series of misadventures, which he approaches with an increasingly Machiavellian single-mindedness. He becomes not only reckless, but turns nasty - betraying friends, ruining lives and property without regard.
That said, I did enjoy Youth in Revolt. The sardonically funny daily journals of Nick Twisp held my attention far more than I would have expected of a 500 page book. The lack of chapter breaks can be daunting to someone who hates to put down a book mid-chapter, but the daily journal entries, further broken into timed subsections (this kid is an obsessive journal keeper), provide the natural breaks that keep you from going insane.
As a work of absurdist fiction, the nihilist tendencies within Youth in Revolt are to be somewhat expected. I can accept the reassembled Chevy in the living room, the conflagration of an entire city block, and the Mussolini Revivalist alter ego, and I admire the subtlety of Nick's creative editorial pranks. But the utter abandon with which he back-stabs friends made it difficult for me to like him.
And, perhaps I am just being thick or a grammar Nazi, but I still have not figured out the purpose of the quotation marks in the book's tagline: Every "Revolution" Needs a Leader.
Youth in Revolt is engaging and memorable, but I am not sure I will be in any hurry to read the sequels. Not until Nick and Sheeni get smacked up the side of the head a couple of times, anyway.