For a lot of people, two types of writing are automatically considered opposites: either you read prefabricated made-for-Hollywood-production best-selling novels, or you read difficult elitist and intellectual novels. Over-generalization aside, we mustn’t forget there’s a huge middle ground between Dostoyevsky and Dan Brown. The ambassador for that middle territory should be DC Pierson, author of the delightfully entertaining The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To.
Darren Bennett is a very self-conscious and intelligent high school geek who spends a lot of time drawing and isn’t particularly popular at school. His brother’s a douche bag and his divorced father spends all his free time on the dating scene. Nothing fun is happening in his life until he meets Eric Lederer, a straightforward, possibly weird fellow student who is infatuated by Darren’s drawings and wants to collaborate with the young illustrator.
As nonchalantly as they can, the pair starts to develop a deep and honest friendship, one whose foundation rests upon the incredibly ambitious work of fiction they’re developing together. At one point, though, Eric Lederer admits to a big secret: he never sleeps. The adolescent boy is always awake. This revelation leads to a wonderful story involving drama class girls, hipsters, aggressive teenagers, absolutely evil villains and a special bond that can only be qualified as adorable between the two main protagonists. There’s even some sex.
This book is entertaining; you might even call it light reading. It’s got some clichés here and there, and it also ends up being a huge fanboy fantasy, but it’s also very heartwarming and true. It avoids predictability, its characters are believable, its dialogues hilarious and efficient, and its story original, interesting, and well crafted. The premise, the boy who can’t sleep, is impressive in its simplicity and beautiful in its execution.
This is DC Pierson’s first novel, and unlike some first books it’s not intent on showing off literary skills or settling scores. The quirky, first person adolescent geek narrative is dead on; it rings true and makes you laugh in all the right places, but it also makes you hurt. As with most coming-of-age stories, this one has a first love and also a first broken heart. Although you can spot that heartbreak coming a mile away, it is still heart-wrenching.
The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To is a universal story about friendship, love, and growing up quicker than you expected. But it is also pure candy for geeks, even grown-up ones. This novel is about the timid, intelligent, creative child, fan of science fiction and superhero stories, who was labeled a geek when it was still an insult.
The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To is a great homage to geekdom as well as an original story told in a beautiful way.
Joseph Elfassi is a Montréal based photographer, writer and journalist. For articles, pictures and videos, go to www.elfassi.ca.