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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft

I read a lot of books – some good, some great; some not so much. Rarely do I finish a book and think to myself, “THAT was a work of art!” This book is that and so much more. A little bit Tom Robbins, a little Beat Generation Poet, a little blues guitar. It made me think, made me cry, made me mad. That said, this is definitely a young adult book; not for children. The language is as salty as any I’ve read, and there is a good bit of content that takes some maturity to handle. If you’re looking for a quick, fun read, walk away now. If you are looking for a novel that is lyrical, thoughtful, and unafraid to face the darkness that inhabits the soul, Adios, Nirvana is for you.

Summary: Jonathan used to be a star student. That was before the death of his twin brother, Telemachus. Since Telly’s death, Jonathan has been wallowing in the darkness of his own grief, barely kept afloat by his poetry, his guitar, Ruby, and his “thicks,” the friends who have stuck by him; the friends with whom he shares so many memories of Telly.

Now Jonathan is faced with the possibility of repeating his junior year of high school. Thanks to his English teacher and principal, he is given a second chance – on three conditions. He cannot miss any more school. He must play his principal’s favorite song at graduation, and he must write the life story of a dying WWII veteran. None of these three conditions excites Jonathan, but his thicks won’t let him fail.

When Jonathan first meets David, the WWII vet, at The Delphi (the hospice where David is spending his last days), he freaks out – he cannot stand being surrounded by the feeling of sickness and death that is all around – it reminds him too much of Telly’s last days. But over time, Jonathan and David form a bond based on their pain and the feelings that neither has been able to find words for. Together, Jonathan and David try to exorcise old demons and express darkness that they’ve each been facing alone.

Jonathan’s poetry is scattered throughout, and was some of my favorite reading in the book. There are so many amazing lines scattered in the pages of this book – lines that are morbidly funny; lines that almost transcend simple written words because they hold so much meaning. Maybe this was more the case for me, having lost a brother (though admittedly not a twin) when I was just a little older than Jonathan. His journey through grief made me look at my own journey more closely.


Age Appropriateness:
Although the book says 14 & up, I would go a little higher myself - 16

Areas of concern (content):
Foul Language: Yes, lots.
Nudity/Adult Content: Yes.
Violence: No.

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