Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Other Way Around (review)

3/5 stars

Sometimes a book just isn't for you.  Though I love the idea of roadtrip books the newer ones seem to be a little too hipster-ific for my tastes.  The Other Way Around (Goodreads | Amazon) is the story of a slacker named Andrew who doesn't really have any direction in his life.  His mother is the headmistress of the school where he goes and has high expectations for him and his father really isn't in the picture anymore.  When his cousin Barry comes to Thanksgiving, Andrew reaches the point where he's had enough of his life and decided to go spend the weekend with his Grandmother Mimi, the only family member he really likes.

Only Mimi's dead and his mother was too afraid to break the bad news.  While waiting at the bus stop, Andrew meets a girl named G who offers to let him travel with their group in exchange for gas money. The "Freegans" as they call themselves, because they get free food by dumpster diving, are a group of street performers traveling across the country. They're also vegetarians (except for Emily, the vegan) and straight-edge.  The book explained numerous times what it means to be straight-edge and sometimes they're just as judgy as you'd expect from a group of hipster, vegetarian, straight-edge buskers.

Quite a few things about their hipster-ness bothered me.  For one, Emily has dreadlocks which the main character usually doesn't think are pretty on white girls (yes that get's pointed out) but surprisingly they smell good.  Also, the whole "freegan" dumpster diving and anti-corporate America talk got old.  Yes businesses sell food for money and they throw away expired food.  They have to do both of those and there's nothing evil about it. Not everyone is trying to rip you off, they're just trying to survive. Do I like Walmart? No. Do I shop at Walmart? Yes because otherwise I wouldn't be able to afford to eat/live in a nice neighborhood at the same time.

Also there's a whole romance that I don't buy.  Andrew just drifts along with the group but everyone likes him and thinks he's a great person and one girl even "loves" him.  As far as I can tell, there's nothing that distinguishes Andrew as a person but he's more of a blank-slate for those around to reflect on.  The romance just never sparked and seemed more based on jealousy and desperation than anything that I find remotely romantic.

Near the end this book actually changes up it's storytelling format slightly and hits it's stride.  Unfortunately for me, it was a little too late for redemption.  But the last few chapters are the best chapters and kept me engaged in a book that I'd almost given up on.  I don't know, maybe if you're better with hipsters than me you'll like this book but for me it was trying too hard to be cool-but-not-cool and I just ended up annoyed. The book isn't terrible and I expect a lot of people will quite like it, but it's just not for me.

I received an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review. 


Kritika said...

The cover looks really cool - I'm sorry you didn't think this one was for you. Judging from your description of the "hipster" characters, I feel like I wouldn't like it much either! Sometimes it's nice to read about unconventional characters, but this seems like it's trying too hard to be different.

- Kritika @ Snowflakes & Spider silk

April C said...

Nope. No hipsters for me. While this sounds okay, just no. I can't with dumpster diving and fighting 'the man' or whatever it is kids protest these days. Just no.

Great review though!

Cassi Haggard said...

Every time I read a road trip book it seems to be too "hipster" for me. Can't normal people go on a road trip?

Cassi Haggard said...

I agree about the cover! It's part of what drew me. But the characters were just trying too hard to deal with.