Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review: "The Instructions"

Where do I even begin with this one? Well, this was yet another book that built me up only to let me come crashing down; McSweeney's has disappointed me again.

One of the latest additions to Jewish literature, The Instructions by Adam Levin, is supposed to be an epic tale about a ten year old boy named Gurion Ben-Judah Maccabee who may (or may not) be the Messiah. Apparently everything he does is viewed as revolutionary by his peers, and the adults that run the school have to contend with the mischief that they cause. It's a story of love and redemption and blah blah blah. That's what most people want you to believe. Let me tell you what this book is really about:

A bunch of sane, albeit punk and troublesome, kids decide that they hate having to live by the rules that come with growing up and going to school, and thus, they decide to rebel in an overtly violent manner. They view their having to follow rules as oppression against all of the Israelites--no one is Jewish in the novel. These are the kind of kids that you would slap in the face after they mouth off to you because they think it's cool to rebel for its own sake.

In addition to the extremely flat and greatly exaggerated plot, the writing was nothing short of a constant rape of the English language. I shit you not, this is an actual sentence from the book:
"'Bet what would didn't,' Leevon didn't but seemed to."
Um...what? The only thing that kept me reading through to the end was the constant foreshadowing of something horrific happening. As I found out after 900 pages, the only thing that happens is that these punk kids attack innocent teachers and students at random during a school assembly with makeshift pennyguns: cut off the top of a water bottle, insert a balloon through it, put a coin in the balloon, pull it back, and fire.

McSweeneys, Levin, get over yourselves.

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