Thursday, 28 January 2010

DIK Reading Challenge Review - Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger

"A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year, only to part after an amazing summer of discovery to attend their respective colleges. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart.

Flash forward twenty years.

Travis and Craig both have great lives, careers and loves. But something is missing...Travis is the first to figure it out. He's still in love with Craig, and come what may, he's going after the boy who captured his heart, even if it means forsaking his job, making a fool of himself, and entering the great unknown."
This book was one of Tracy's seven DIK picks and I'm so glad I picked this as my first read. I feel this review should come with a warning that there may be gushing involved. I LOVED this book. I think the last time I felt so enthralled (for completely different reasons) was when I was reading The Time Traveller's Wife. And for everyone who's read the blog and knows how much I gushed about that book it should give you an idea of how I feel about this one.

Almost Like Being in Love is an epistolary novel - told in narrative, through letters, checklists, receipts and memos. I must admit until last year (when I read The Color Purple) I'd never read an epistolary novel before. I think the idea of a novel told through letters had always been offputting (the main reason why I've never read Dracula). Luckily reading TCP broadened my horizons and with more than one DIK lady trying to get this book on her list I was intrigued enough to make this my first choice.

The story starts in 1978 and follows Travis and Craig's first meeting and the development of their relationship.
"There's nobody else like him in the whole world. And he thinks that's a handicap!"
Because you get both Travis and Craig's point of view it gives you an insight ito what they think of each other and also lets you know as a reader when they're bullshitting the other. The story then fast forwards twenty years to 1998 where they haven't seen each other for all that intervening time. Whilst Craig is involved in a long term relationship, Travis realizes he only ever really loved one person.

For anyone who thinks that because the novel is not written in a standard format that they won't fall in love with the characters I'd ask them not to worry. At the beginning there is an almost voyeuristic feel as we read newspaper articles, diary entries and other notes and dialogues. Pretty soon you are sucked into the story and falling in love with the characters. I also think there is enough of standard narrative between the memos and articles, that gives you a deeper insight into the characters that might be missed if the novel relied on epistolary techniques alone.

The dialogue and thought processes of the characters are laugh out loud funny. And once again I have a book where I could quote loads of dialogue but will restrict myself to a couple of favourite lines. It was tough to get it down to these two.
"Paralysis comes in many forms. I'd just discovered nine of them."
"You once told me that the only thing I needed to know about being a man was that one less sock always comes out of the dryer. You were full of shit."
Okay I admit my favourite line is the one about the vacuum cleaner hose on p. 337 but I'm going to leave you to discover that one for yourself. :)

This is a book that made me laugh, and made me feel good and more optimistic. I know that if ever I'm feeling down in the future I can pull this book off my bookshelf and it will cheer me up. If you're doing the DIK challenge and you haven't yet read Almost Like Being in Love I highly recommend that you make this one of your twelve picks. And if anyone has read The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger I'd love to know if you'd recommend that book as well - though it is already on my wishlist.


~ames~ said...

I read the same book for this challenge! Wasn't it awesome?

I had to go out and buy My Most Excellent Year as soon as I finished it. That's a good one too.

Tracy said...

*Clapping hand with big fat smile on my face* Yay! I'm so glad you liked it! I just couldn't say enough about the book and the characters and well, everything. I think I might have gushed as well. :) It does have some fantastic lines in it. *sigh* Good stuff.

Hilcia just did a review of The Last Days of Summer - check it out - sounds good too.

Li said...

Oh, I've just read it too - this seems to be making the rounds!

Really really liked it, and I already adore epistolary-style novels, which just added to the appeal. I loved the other characters and the secondary romance as well, they were just so well-rounded. Very well-written, and as you said, hilarious.

I looked at his backlist, but couldn't quite figure out which one to get next - so My Most Excellent Year has a rec, huh?

Kris said...

But Tracy stole it from me... :(

I'm so glad that you loved this one, Lesley. It is an awesome book.

If you liked this, you will definitely like The Last Days of Summer and My Most Excellent Year; both of which I enjoyed very much as well. They will make you laugh, move you and, TLDoS especially, make you cry.

Hmmmm... Why don't you try MMEY first? It's a YA and a terrific coming of age story.

LesleyW said...

Ames - Yes! Awesome! I'm just hoping that the remaining 11 books I pick for the challenge are as good as the first.

Tracy - Thanks for the link. I am definitely going to check out The Last Days of Summer and My Most Excellent Year as well. Already added them to my wishlist.

LesleyW said...

Li - Funny how some books seem to spontaneously appear over a load of blogs. But I'm very glad I picked this one up.

Kris - :). I thought she'd just pipped you to the post.