This novel might have been the inspiration behind DIE HARD - but rid yourself of the idea that this is John McClane. Joe Leland is a much more three-dimensional protagonist, and the novel is darker, more gritty and surprising than its movie counterpart.
It isn’t the plot that makes this novel special. It lacks much action at all, in fact - but this is a deliberate attempt to direct us alongside Jernigan as he makes a series of bad or passive decisions to draw out the repetitive, unfulfilling life that he admits he would much rather not be living. Instead of focusing on drama, Gates spends the majority of the book focusing on the intricacies of his character, showing redemptive compassion for his introspective, self-pitying protagonist, as he tries to rationalize his own terrible behavior.
The first refreshing element of this novel is that Maya is unlike any other female narrator I’ve ever read. Not only is she wholly unlikable, confusing and exhausting, but she also thinks and says whatever she wants. Still, her raw honesty and humor means that you respect her, even if you don’t like her. Sharma smears foul language and imagery across every page, in ways that typically only male narrators have ever been allowed to do. Which is pretty fantastic.
I’m not sure how I got here, or why. Reading this book felt like stacking twelve tabs of E on my tongue, with the acknowledgement that I would eventually lose my mind, any understanding of the universe and likely the control of my bowels. ‘Jim Giraffe’ came highly recommended from my everyday-hot-chocolate-pouring-barista whose opinions I shall now no longer trust.
The story centres around two young people, Connell and Marianne - both relatably strange in their own unique way - and follows them as they grow up, at times intertwined, and at times apart.