Sunday, May 26, 2013

Review: "Joe College" by Tom Perrotta

Now, with having read Joe College, I can see a clear line that was made in the middle of Tom Perrotta’s career. On this present side of that line, we have a talented writer who writes stories of suburban angst that are compelling and tap into harsh, sometimes dirty truths without resorting to pandering or simple shocks. Books like Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher speaks to the heart of modern life in ways that make us uncomfortable, but teach us about what it means to hold onto values and dreams in a world dead set on crushing them. But on the previous side, I see a writer struggling to find his way. I found Election to be a little pedestrian in how it handled its topic, and Joe College seems to do the same. Rarely is the book boring, but the emotional impact of Perrotta’s later works is practically non-existent. The narrator of this story is Danny, a Yale junior who is on the cusp of graduating, and over one Spring Break, must come to terms with two love interests, Cindy, a past relationship at home who is harboring a secret, and the elusive Polly, who is sleeping with a suave professor. Also, he must take over driving a lunch truck for his dad while he recovers from surgery, coming in contact with a group of muscle bound lunch truck drivers, calling themselves the “Lunch Monsters”, who are intent on stealing his route. As always, the story and characters are as interesting as can be with a flashback to the time Danny faced down a bully being a highlight of the novel (makes me eager to read his short stories), as well as a very good ending, which Perrotta’s is a master at. I just know that he is capable of handling heavier stuff. This is worth a look, but don’t expect anything like the usual punch Perrotta packs.
Rating: 4/5

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