Background Reading for My Novel: When You Don’t See Me

When You Don't See Me

I’ve been out-of-town visiting friends and am now just getting back into the groove of my normal routine. It’s been more than a month since I have posted any reviews on any of the readings I have recently completed as part of my preparation for the novel I am writing. Today I want to comment on one of the books I recently read, When You Don’t See Me by Timothy James Beck, first published in 2007.

This was a book I was eager to read because in so many ways at least on the surface it very closely resembles the novel I am currently writing. Like my protagonist, the story centers around a 19-year-old who leaves home because of the rejection and alienation he feels for being gay. He moves to a big city (in this case Manhattan, in my story Brian moves to San Francisco) in hopes of finding acceptance and the chance to be himself and live life fully. It also takes place in the recent past so the prevailing sociopolitical attitudes I reasoned would be similar. “Eureka!”  was my initial reaction. I have found something that should inspire me and stimulate my creative juices.

As it turned out this proved to be a very disappointing book. The story began promisingly enough but quickly sputtered out. I did not find the protagonist or for that matter any of the characters particularly interesting or sympathetic. One problem I thought was that the author threw in too many individuals and never really developed them fully.  Even the story’s main characters seemed to be shallow at best. In addition I found one part of the story line to be absurdly contrived. Nick, the protagonist has 3 roommates, one of whom is a woman named Morgan whom he and his other roommates find quite irritating. About 3/4 of the way through the book we find out that a woman whom Nick works for just happens to be Morgan’s long-lost sister. Somehow the reader is expected to find that plausible in a city as huge as NYC. Pretty absurd in my opinion.

The book seemed to drag on and on and never really took off. Even though the book is less than 300 pages it took an eternity to read not because it was deep but simply because it was so vapid. The story ends with Nick temporarily returning to his small Midwestern roots to confront his family. That part of the story is left more or less to the reader’s imagination other than a vague suggestion that Nick and his twin brother may have a shot at finally becoming friends.

I was frankly glad to turn the last page of this book and move on to some other more interesting story with better character development. Fortunately the next book I read was very fulfilling and extremely well written. I will fill in the details on that in the next few days.

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