Welcome to Rapid Book Reviews, No. 1. Each entry of Rapid Book Reviews will contain anywhere from 2-5 book reviews. Some books reviewed will be books that have come out recently, while some might be from back in the day. For this entry, I have reviewed two books for you to consider:
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle and The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore. At the time of this writing, I am currently reading A Game of Thrones (Book 1) by George R.R. Martin and Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson. I'll review those whenever I finish (they are both a bit lengthy).
Each book review will be concise and will answer three questions for you:
1. What is this book about?
2. What could this book make me think about? (philosophical musings)
3. Should I read this book?
Here are my reviews for this entry:
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
John Darnielle's stellar debut novel is a heart-wrenching exploration through decision-making and consciousness. The novel follows mail-game developer, Sean, and tells the story of how his face came to be deformed (this is the best way to describe the novel without spoiling it). Wolf in White Van is very much a novel about consequences and how each time we make a decision, we are presented with a multitude of paths to take (many of which we will never know where they lead). As Sean constantly reminds us, each time we choose a path, we are left to wonder about the outcomes of other paths. To hang onto the choices we didn't make is to be nostalgic and regretful, while moving forward almost leaves us with the illusion of contentment.
Wolf in White Van is a must-read. The narrative is woven beautifully and in such a way that makes it constantly interesting. Darnielle allows us to get to know Sean, but provides enough distance between reader and protagonist for suitable and justifiable judgment to take place. My only criticism with the novel (and this of course has much to do with my preferences as a reader), is that Darnielle's language sometimes feels overly wordy for the sake of being that way. I found myself wrapped up in his writing, but at times I felt a little bit overwhelmed by it as well. This is certainly a small criticism, but one that should be noted.
The novel is not very long and can be read in a few solid reading sessions. If you're looking for a thought-provoking novel with gloomy undertones, give Wolf in White Van a read.
Should you read this book? Yes.
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
Wes Moore tells the story of his life growing up in Baltimore and the Bronx. Wes juxtaposes his story with that of the other Wes Moore, who grew up in close proximity to Wes Moore (the author), but is now in jail. Every chapter of the novel provides a snapshot of the decisions both Wes Moores made during a certain year and the type of support (or lack thereof) they had from their peers and family. This type of format works for this particular piece of nonfiction because it allows readers to see how similar Wes and Wes were as they were growing up. There are subtle moments where one Wes is given advice or stability, while the other is not, and these moments help us understand what went wrong for the Other Wes.
What makes The Other Wes Moore so powerful is that it encourages you to be self-reflective while also providing an adequate background of the drug and crime issues in Baltimore and how those issues impact the lives of youths. For fans of The Wire, much of what happens in the book will remind you of what you've seen the Corner Boys do in Season 4. The "other" Wes, transfixed on the shiny headphones of the boys on the corner, actually begins his foray into the drug game as a lookout on the corner.
The Other Wes Moore is a great read for those interested in nonfiction and those with an interest in how one's climate can impact decision-making and growth. It's also a sad tale about what could have been and how sometimes the odds are against certain people before they have the whereabouts to know that there are odds in the first place.
Should you read this book? Yes.