Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To - A Novel by DC Pierson

What would you do if you could and never had to sleep? Catch up on homework and assignments, check off everything on your To Do list and still have plenty of time to spare for the things that you really like to do? Imagine how much you could accomplish while others are sleeping their lives away! DC Pierson’s 2011 Alex Award Winner Novel The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To is a wildly imaginative story delving into the awkwardness of the high school years complete with sleepless nights, girls and otherworldly mutants.

When Darren Bennett meets Eric Lederer, the two young adolescents strike up an instant friendship based on their mutual obsession with drawing and mutants from other galaxies. Darren lives with his dad and older brother in a house that for the most part seems abandoned to a male dominant way of living: coming and going as each one of them pleases, eating from a fridge stacked with premade, packaged foods, checking up on each other just to make sure they are still around. Eric comes from a traditionally caring family. Yet both of them are alienated from any high school cliques, living mostly suspended between their classes at school and their imaginary world. Soon after they meet, they decide to dedicate their time creating the most amazing alternate galaxy complete with Agtranian Berserkers, Yerum Battlebeasts and Tllnar Defenders. The project is their dream to make it big as they start to visualize a successful series of comics, television series, and even a motion picture. Everything is as normal as it should be. Until Eric tells Darren his secret: he cannot sleep and does not have to. Putting their friendship to the test, Darren needs convincing, but as soon as Eric proves it to him that he is the real thing, they embark upon the adventure of their lives. Peppered with sci-fi talk and outlandish, grandiose plans, their made-up world is shattered when both fall in love with Christine. Seized by a jealous rage, Darren tells The Man about Eric’s secret thing and as word leaks out, everything starts to unravel. They find themselves fugitives on the run. Is the government trying to snatch Eric away to explore his ability, or is there something else more sinister lurking about? As Darren finds himself privy to yet another one of Eric’s mind’s side effects, the two friends are thrown together into the battle of their lives.

Inhabiting a world laden with teenage lingo, in which love, drugs and music find their way to color their adolescent days, Darren and Eric are the embodiment of the typical 16-year-old ‘free-floating nerds’ who spend most of their time dreaming up made up worlds to satisfy their overworked imagination. The alienation not only from their families and friends at school but also from their own selves serves as a base for the growing pains of both characters. Alternately philosophical and downright decadently funny, Pierson’s novel is a reflection on the contemporary male tormented teenage psyche. Overwhelmed by fantastical imaginations, school, peer pressure and a lack of guidance, the two friends represent the awkward, alienated teenagers who struggle to make it through their high school years with profound implications not only on their own individual lives but also on the society at large. The twist ending leaves one bewildered, bemused and wondering.

Despite a tightly developed action, there are a few strands left unexplored which in hind side could have provided useful information regarding the ending. While Pierson does not reveal anything new in terms of teenage alienation and rebelliousness, the novel rests on its wild originality. Although funny and smart, the novel carries a much deeper and serious underlying message. It could be very well part of a teaching unit alongside classics such as JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, with The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To as thoroughly representative of some of our most pressing contemporary issues.

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