Ostrich, by Matt Greene (2013)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest Level: 16-Adult
OstrichA story about a teen with a brain tumour doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but that doesn’t stop debut author Matt Greene from making us laugh out loud throughout. We get to know Alex just as he is about to undergo brain surgery to remove a tumour, discovered after he suddenly began having seizures. He wakes up to see his father and mother at his side. Alex can’t yet talk, but his Dad lets him know he is okay with this bit of news: he was getting to be a bit too clever, so “we got them to go ahead and take a little bit off the top. Nothing too drastic, just a trim, just enough to give me a chance at Boggle.” The joke falls flat for Alex and his mother, but I broke up laughing. Greene does this over and over again – delivers deadpan humour when it’s least expected, and often in the middle of what should be a heart-reading scene. As he recovers, the brilliant Alex tries to figure out if his parents are breaking up. He suspects his father is having an affair, and his girl friend (not girlfriend, not yet) Chloe helps him work out the clues, her own family history colouring everything they consider. The reader realizes the truth when the teens never do, but Greene continues to deliver one-liners (Acidic Jews, inflatio when he means fellatio) and hilarious perspectives that make young Alex’s story unforgettable, though admittedly it took me a while to warm up to it. Greene writes in the style of fellow British YA authors Kevin Brooks and Andy Mulligan. The colloquialisms and slang are an obstacle at times. In this case, I missed a stronger setting – there is so much character and dialogue, I longed for a bit of description now and then. It’s the Canadian in me, Margaret Atwood might say! Yet the writing is truly brilliant – I grew to thoroughly enjoy Alex’s nested parenthetical writing and wry observations on life. I’d compare this to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time or Going Bovine, and I expect nominations and possibly awards to come. Thanks again to NetGalley for the advance reading copy.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17934706-ostrich

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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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