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A Reader of Fictions: We Get On - Kate Nash (+ Giveaway)

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Thursday, May 3, 2012

We Get On - Kate Nash (+ Giveaway)

Starter for Ten
Author:David Nicholls
Pages: 338
Review Copy Acquired from: Goodreads First Reads
Publisher: Villard

Description from Goodreads:
The year is 1985. Brian Jackson, a working-class kid on full scholarship, has started his first term at university. He has a dark secret—a long-held, burning ambition to appear on the wildly popular British TV quiz show University Challenge—and now, finally, it seems the dream is about to become reality. He's made the school team, and they've completed the qualifying rounds and are limbering up for their first televised match. (And, what's more, he's fallen head over heels for one of his teammates, the beautiful, brainy, and intimidatingly posh Alice Harbinson.) Life seems perfect and triumph inevitable—but as his world opens up, Brian learns that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

First Sentence: "All young people worry about things, it's a natural and inevitable part of growing up, and at the age of sixteen my greatest anxiety in life was that I'd never achieve anything as good, or pure, or noble, or true, as my O-level exam results."

I won this book almost two years ago in a Goodreads giveaway. Since it wasn't an ARC, I didn't see any special reason to prioritize the reading thereof, as the Goodreads conditions say you don't have to read them. However, given my luck in those giveaways since, I suspect they disqualify you if you have one with an outstanding review. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but that's why I moved this up my tbr list.

Edit: I won a book from Goodreads approximately four hours after posting this. You don't have to review them, my ass.

My expectations were not particularly high, nor was I thrilled to be reading this. Why? Well, I acquired a copy of One Day from a used bookstore and read it a while back, because I was really excited for. Unfortunately, I largely hated it. To find out why, read my review here. Starter for Ten has a lot of the same issues, but I did enjoy it a bit more, finding the characters to be a smidgen less obnoxious and the desperation a bit less unforgivable in a younger main character.

Oddly enough, what Starter for Ten reminds me most of is some of John Green's books, namely Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. What these books share is a young male lead, though Brian in Nicholls' book is in college rather than high school, who is obsessed with a mysterious, experienced, unreachable girl. For this reason, these are my least favorite Green novels, though I still quite like them. I just can't bond quite as much with the books when I loathe the 'heroine' so much, and when the MC, otherwise intelligent and awesome, will not just get over this girl who obviously does not want him, but wants to string him along to increase her self-worth, which is low despite being the most gorgeous creature ever to enter that institution of learning. Ugh.

Of course, Green's books are saved by the other characters. They're pretty much all seriously entertaining and funny, people I wouldn't mind meeting. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Starter for Ten. Brian is SUCH A PATHETIC PRAT. Phew. Had to get that out. Seriously, though. He's a really smart guy, as shown by all of the trivia, but he has pretty much no social skills and no common sense. He gets terrible grades at University, because he spends pretty much all of his time mooning over Alice, THE girl, and writing her what is assuredly the worst poetry ever composed. Thank goodness Nicholls spared us that!

Alice is apparently the prettiest girl in school, sexually experienced, and desired by pretty much every male on campus. Brian is skinny, may have the worst acne ever, and seriously questionable style. I don't know what the 'grandpa shirts' he's constantly going on about are, but I seriously doubt clothing of that name is going to help bring the ladies to the yard. This discrepancy in their social status and skills made most of the book seem unbelievable to me. I just could not buy that Alice would voluntarily spend time with Brian.

Sure, she might be nice enough to keep him interested if they happened to show up to the same party or at trivia practice. In what world, though, does this girl invite that guy to her house over the holiday? Why would she keep hanging out with him after he said something super awkward to her mother? There's just no way that Alice and Brian would be as close as they are in the book. It's not just their attractiveness; she really doesn't seem to like him much, which I can certainly understand. And, whatever he may say, Brian really only likes her for her beauty, as all he really ever commends her for is being gorgeous.

All the time, of course, the one character I actually liked, Rebecca, a snarky Scot, is pining after Brian for some reason. With an awesome girl right there, he just continues to go after the girl he so obviously is not going to get in the end. It's great that unlike in One Day it's a guy desperate for a girl's love, but that reversal is undone by the fact that, awful though he is, a woman is waiting for him even more patiently. Sigh.

Please note, though, that there are good things about this book as well. For one thing, Nicholls is an incredibly talented writer. If he wrote characters I found less entirely obnoxious, I would LOVE his books. I read so much for character. Seriously, check out the quote. I love that, and it really does encapsulate the feelings of going off to college. If you're in it more for the writing, DEFINITELY read Nicholls. He's also delightfully British, which isn't so much a talent, but I enjoy it immensely.

If you're interested in this book, please do not let me scare you off unless you have similar taste in books, because way more people love Nicholls' books than dislike them. In this case, I am definitely in a minority. Since I know other people enjoy his work, I am passing on my pretty copy to another reader, who will hopefully be able to love it.

Giveaway Details: To enter, just comment (because Rafflecopter hates me right now) on the review, telling me about your favorite bit of British pop culture. You may also, of course, comment on the review. Make sure to leave your email so I can contact you if you win! Do so by May 17th at midnight. Following is not a requirement but is appreciated, especially since I'm almost to another follower giveaway! US only, sorry!

Rating: 2.5/5

Favorite Quote: "I want to be able to listen to recordings of piano sonatas and know who's playing. I want to go to classical concerts and know when you're meant to clap. I want to be able to 'get' modern jazz without it all sounding like this terrible mistake, and I want to know who the Velvet Underground are exactly. I want to be fully engaged in a World of Ideas, I want to understand complex economics, and what people see in Bob Dylan. I want to possess radical but humane and well-informed political ideals, and I want to hold passionate but reasoned debated round wooden kitchen tables, saying things like 'Define your terms!' and 'Your premise is patently specious!' and then suddenly discover the sun's come up and we've been talking all night. I want to use words like eponymous and solipsistic and utilitarian with confidence. I want to learn to appreciate fine wines, and exotic liquers, and single malts, and learn how to drink them without turning into a complete prat, and to eat strange and exotic foods, plovers' eggs and lobster thermidor, things that sound barely edible, or that I can't pronounce. I want to make love to beautiful, sophisticated, intimidating women, during daylight or with the light on, even, and sober, and without fear, and I want to be able to speak many languages fluently, and maybe even a dead language or two, and to carry a small leather-bound notebook in which I jot incisive thoughts and observations, and the occasional line of verse. Most of all, I want to read books; books thick as a brick, leather-bound books with incredibly thin paper and those purple ribbons to mark where you left off; cheap, dusty secondhand books of collected verse, incredibly expensive, imported books of incomprehensible essays from foreign universities."

Note About Today's Song: Change the bumping into anything else awkward and the song to putrid poetry, and this is PERFECT. Also, Kate Nash is amazing.

"I conducted a plan
To bump into you most accidentally
But I was walking along
And I bumped into you much more heavily
Than I'd originally planned
It was well embarrassing and
I think you thought that I was a bit of a twat

I just think that we get on
I wish I could tell you face to face
Instead of singing this stupid song
But yeah I just think that we might get on

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Blogger Giselle said...

I haven't heard of this book or author before but really it's not something I think I would enjoy much either. On another hand, I have never read a John Green book, I have to get some of his soon, it's like a sin O_O

May 4, 2012 at 12:07 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

You definitely need to read John Green. DEFINITELY.

May 4, 2012 at 7:29 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

You failed the mention the best part of this book, which is that they made it into a movie that stars James McAvoy, who is one of my favorite actors ever. Seeing as how I have never read the book, I can't comment on any comparisons. But...James McAvoy = happy Kelly, so there is that!

Does James McAvoy count as British Pop Culture? If not, my favorite UK pop culture is definitely Doctor Who and/or Torchwood! [email: kkobiela (at) gmail]

May 4, 2012 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

LOL. I almost mentioned that, but then I didn't because the review was already INSANELY long. And because the book character is so not James McAvoy. I wish he was!

May 4, 2012 at 3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the music! Britpop, Scottish jangle-pop, punk, New Wave, Beatlemania...the whole bit. British music magazines are fun, too (Shindig! and MOJO are my favorites), even if they cost too much as imports...


May 12, 2012 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Gale Nelson said...

I love the music. I have never read anything by this author but the review sounds good. I look forward to reading it. Thanks for the great giveaway. Gale pgan427@yahoo.com

May 13, 2012 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Karielle Stephanie said...

I haven't tried Nicholls but I've heard his work really is great! I'm a bit reluctant to try this one (based off your review — which I found incredibly helpful and detailed — as well as those of others) but I've added it to my neverending to-read pile nonetheless. Thanks for your thoughts, and for the giveaway!

thestephanieloves AT gmail DOT com

May 13, 2012 at 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hooray! I'm so looking forward to reading this--thank you! I think there might have been some weird glitch where your mail ended up in my spam folder first, so I hope my response e-mail got there...


May 19, 2012 at 12:39 PM  

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