This is probably only the third book out of 50+ audio books I’ve listened to in the past 13 months that was ruined for me by the reader. They’re rare, but they do come. *sigh* He had a weird voice and paused A LOT and in weird places and he was just… blah.
But then there was the story. And – don’t get me wrong – the story had a good message. But the story itself didn’t especially grab me. And neither did the writing… which surprised me, because I’ve read two other books by this writer (Stargirl and Love, Stargirl) and adored both of them, and another one of his books (Milkweed) is one of my sister-in-law’s favorite books of all time. And this one got a Newberry honor? I trust those people less and less…
It’s about a kid – Palmer – in a small town that has a Family Fest one week every summer. On the last day of this, they have a sharpshooting contest with pigeons as targets. 5,000 pigeons, released one at a time. Ten-year-old boys have to be “wringers” – the ones who run onto the field and wring the pigeons’ necks if they don’t die immediately.
And Palmer doesn’t want to be a wringer. It doesn’t make sense to him to kill pigeons to “put them out of their misery” when we caused their misery in the first place. And he has a pet pigeon. And he deals with the issues of fitting in/being accepted, trying to figure out what to share with his parents and what not to, and deciding between his conscience and what’s cool.
I get that these are big questions. And WOW do I get not fitting in (queen of that one, here). And I really appreciate Palmer’s questioning of something everyone else takes for granted as “just the way it is.” But… trying so hard to be accepted by people you don’t even like? And pigeons? I mean, if it had been rabbits, I would be able to relate more. But I think pigeons are kind of gross. (Note: this does NOT mean I condone mass killings of them.)
So here’s my story about fitting in: I didn’t. Ever. Anywhere. But I was never bullied because 1) I was taller than pretty much everyone (being 5’11” at age 11 has its advantages); 2) if that wasn’t enough of a deterrent, I was also usually smarter than most of the class, and also often better at sports (we’re talking lower grades, here); 3) I have two older brothers who turned out to be 6’6” and 6’9”… and, yeah, let me leave it at that: no one bothered me.
I always thought it would be totally stupid to put work into trying to be someone I wasn’t so that people I didn’t even like would like me. Among the benefits of this: being able to admit honestly (and usually bluntly) when I do and don’t like things (as you can see in this post: I feel free to disagree with the Newberry people and say I don’t like this book).
I’ve always been happy being weird. I had one or two friends at every school I went to, and that was fine. I always decided that being weird was so much better than being fake.
So, Palmer’s dilemma (fit in or get beat up/ostracized) isn’t really one I faced. I understand that it was a very real issue for some kids, and I think that’s sad. But this book was not especially relatable for me.
And, as I mentioned previously, the reader was terrible.