Canadian Materials February 15, 2013
"Brimming with teenage angst and resentment, Jan is a 17-year-old kid in trouble with the law. Forced to serve community service hours at a senior's centre after pleading guilty to a marijuana possession offense, Jan finds himself paired with a spirited old man, Al. Initially at odds, the two characters become friends. As their relationship develops, Jan adopts Al as a mentor and father figure. Jan begins to envision myriad of possibilities through Al's guidance, expanding his scope into the world around him.
Readers meet Jan, an only child and product of divorce, living with his mother in Ontario. He has grown distant and disconnected from his mother, from literature, from writing and ideas. His father, remarried, keeps limited and intermittent involvement with Jan. This loss of connection is at the forefront of Jan's mind and is attributed to his careless behaviour.
From the moment he meets Al, Jan begins to re-evaluate his reckless decisions, falls in love again with books, writing, and a young girl. The driving force of this novel is the relationship between Al and Jan. Old and young. Contentment and struggle. And, at the heart, is a love for literature.
Gail Sidonie Sobat evokes a sense of teenage angst rife within today's society and so prevalent in the source material: T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Man. This novel is riddled with a variety of classic literature infused in such a playfully innovative format. Sobat's framing device of Jan's bad dreams is a captivating mélange of past and present events. The use of powerful and active verbs, concise and poetic pacing of prose, allows the words do the heavy lifting, keeping the reader engaged."