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Saturday, June 13, 2009

How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson

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.

Gibson’s writing took some getting used to. The best way to describe it would be classical. It isn’t the type of writing you can half focus on and still comprehend, it requires your complete focus or else you’ll find yourself mentally walking in circles in a dizzying confusion. Definitely not the kind of writing you’d expect to find in a young adult novel, and yet, it fits. The only thing that detracts from what would be a beautifully written novel with an imaginative plot was the language and content. The integration of modern cursing and taboo behavior and comments into the classical writing style shattered the ambiance of the language.

The novel would have been perfectly fine if Gibson had emitted the risqué behavior and language. Gossip Girl and F. Scott Fitzgerald just don’t mix. It almost felt like the book was trying too hard to please teens when, without it, I believe teens would’ve enjoyed it equally, if not more.

A diamond in the rough, How to Buy a Love of Reading was full of rich, beautiful writing and colorful, intriguing characters. The lewd language and behavior of these characters, however, was a blemish in what would’ve been a wonderful novel otherwise.

2 Stars

P.S. I’m sorry to write nearly an entire review solely on the content of a book. However, since the content is such a huge part of the novel, I felt that it was necessary.


  1. I don't think this is actually YA. I, too, have it and am interested in how I'll like it.

  2. I just looked it up, and you're right Lenore, it isn't YA. Odd, it was pitched to me as if it was written for teens.

  3. I've seen a lot of teen blogs saying they got it, and I found that a bit odd too. Based on what you say in your review, it sounds like it has the feel of something like Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.


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