Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Review: How to Buy a Love of Reading

Title: How to Buy a Love of Reading

Author: Tanya Egan Gibson

Publisher: Dutton

# of Pages: 400

Favorite Line: "I don't know how to say it sophisticatedly. I just know everyone wants to be able to close their eyes sometimes and know someone's there."

Rating: 6/10

This review is based on an advanced reader's copy.

Product Description
Fall in love with reading all over again.

To Carley Wells, words are the enemy. Her tutor’s innumerable SAT flashcards. Her personal trainer’s “fifty-seven pounds overweight” assessment. And the endless reading assignments from her English teacher, Mr. Nagel. When Nagel reports to her parents that she has answered “What is your favorite book” with “Never met one I liked,” they decide to fix what he calls her “intellectual impoverishment.” They will commission a book to be written just for her—one she’ll have to love—that will impress her teacher and the whole town of Fox Glen with their family’s devotion to the arts. They will be patrons— the Medicis of Long Island. They will buy their daughter The Love Of Reading.

Impossible though it is for Carley to imagine loving books, she is in love with a young bibliophile who cares about them more than anything. Anything, that is, but a good bottle of scotch. Hunter Cay, Carley’s best friend and Fox Glen’s resident golden boy, is becoming a stranger to her lately as he drowns himself in F. Scott Fitzgerald, booze, and Vicodin.

When the Wellses move writer Bree McEnroy—author of a failed meta-novel about Odysseus’ failed journey home through the Internet—into their mansion to write Carley’s book, Carley’s sole interest in the project is to distract Hunter from drinking and give them something to share. But as Hunter’s behavior becomes erratic and dangerous, she finds herself increasingly drawn into the fictional world Bree has created, and begins to understand for the first time the power of stories—those we read, those we want to believe in, and most of all, those we tell ourselves about ourselves. Stories powerful enough to destroy a person. Or save her.

I have said before that I really dislike books with excessive amounts of drama, especially of the teenage kind. This is one of those books. I didn't dislike it as much as one might expect, but I don't think I really liked it, either. This book is the meeting point of the sex, drugs and money of Gossip Girl and the long-winded existentialism of Dawson's Creek. The heroine even says to the hero, "You're, like, part of me." Deep stuff. I am all for realism in books, and I know I break out the "like" in conversation quite often. But I don't need to read it in books.

And that's really what this book is- deep thoughts, buried in teenage angst wrapped in a drug-induced haze and sitting on a great big pile of dirty money. I am not familiar with many children of millionaires and billionaires, but I can't imagine that every single one of them is a drug addict who drinks and drives. Supposedly, the kids in the book all attend high school, but we never once see them there. They spend all their time getting high or lounging around their homes or attending massive parties. It's ridiculous.

But realism aside (maybe it is realistic- I don't know), the book does have a message. There are very complex characters who face very difficult situations. There are also very shallow characters who face not-so-difficult situations. I started the book not really liking Carley (it is hard, on principle, for me to like someone who so dislikes reading) and being very intrigued by Hunter. I ended the book thinking Hunter was a twat and being quite proud of Carley.

I liked more aspects of the book than I disliked. It was kind of funny to come across the nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout (almost always scattered by Carley, the ugly-outside-but-beautiful-inside, not-book-smart-but-life-smart heroine). But I can't really describe how angry the characters made me. Every single one. The high schoolers, the teachers, the parents- all of them were so self-absorbed, so wrapped up in themselves that it made me want to scream.

I would neither classify this book as chick lit nor as young adult fiction. I don't think it fits into any genre. It was certainly a gripping read- great wordplay and an important message- but it was wrapped up in a package that I found exhausting.

Note: The author of this book, Tanya Egan Gibson, contacted me very soon after I posted my review on LibraryThing. She seems, from her e-mail, to be a really fun and down-to-earth person, and is hosting on her website a contest for readers. She said the following:

I'd love it if you submitted a story to my web site about how reading changed your life in some way. I've added this section to the site because I'd love to put together a community of stories *about* the power of stories.

All submissions will be posted, and between now and the novel's release date on May 14th, three of them will also be chosen to be made into flash-animated "books" on the site's virtual bookshelf. (The winners will also each receive a signed copy of HTBALOR.)

Gibson's website is located here. Enter if you'd like- I'm sure we all have stories about how reading has changed our lives!


  1. Can't say I get inspired to read it, I don't want my books to exhaust me, so I'll just stay away ;)

  2. These books just seem to play up stereotypes of the rich, spoilt dopey kids, whose parents think money can buy love (so overdone!). I can't say I'm rooting to see more Blair and Chuck-like characters on paper, and this book seems to be full of them.

  3. Hi! Great review. I'm not inclined to pick up the book, though, but I did like the way you pointed out the good and bad points.

    I'm not into too much teenage drama, either.

  4. I think this book would annoy the crap out of me, so I think I will probably stay away from it, but I did love your review! It was really balanced and honest, I liked that you were able to point out the negative aspects without totally trashing it.

  5. Back again, this time with an award: http://fantaghiro23.blogspot.com/2009/04/awards-awards.html

  6. The author sounds lovely, the book not so much, but I'm probably years older than her target audience.

    It is good to know that someone who didn't like reading could redeem themselves by the end of the book! Your final assessment of Hunter and Carley sounds like my assessment of Scarlet & Melanie (Gone With the Wind) when I reread it decades later).


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