The Kid Is Not Alright
The first way Sapphire’s sequel to Push was nearly impossible to read is the least frustrating of the three. The actual writing -- the sentence structure, the stream of consciousness run-ons, the random punctuation -- was infuriating and forced me to read very slowly and re-read. Maybe that was her goal? I imagine if an author utilized that strategy, it would be because the words were worth reading, but sentences like “I see outside the walls now, a door is opening, the elevator is opening and a big fucking lion is walking out the door, spraying shit from his dick like territorial markings. Lion roar AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! I’m there, feel scared," were not sentences I thought I needed to sit and ponder, but that's just me. Either way, I didn’t appreciate it. I know style is subjective, but if you have a sentence that asks a question, it should end in a question mark. I can’t get over stuff like that. It just gets under my skin and puts me in a funk for the entire reading experience. One thing I did find interesting was how the tone shifted dramatically throughout the book; to me, it seemed like there were distinct voices for the four “sections” of the book: when Abdul was very young, when he lived with his great-grandmother, his dancing years, and the final section (I don’t want to include spoilers, so I won’t describe it). However, three of these four voices gave me splitting headaches while I read. For some people, that will be part of the charm of the book: that you feel Abdul’s madness through the grammar and tone, but to me it was overly done.
The second way was related to the syntax; on top of the struggle to read the words and understand sentences at times, the madness of Abdul’s mind was also manifested in a story line that was in, out, up, down, sideways, frontways, dream, reality, dream, reality, wait, is he talking to someone? Is someone talking to him? Who’s talking? Part of the plot revolves around the fact that he often drifts off and thinks he is only talking to himself but is actually talking out loud; on top of that, he carries out horrific acts and believes he is only dreaming. It makes for a confusing read at times. I was constantly backtracking and re-reading. Definitely not something to read before bed, I learned.
The final way that this book was hard for me to read was what the book was about: the actions of almost every single character were literally unbearable to read about. The sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, the poverty, hopelessness, hatred... it was too much to handle. Had I not been reviewing this book, I would not have finished it. I would likely not have read past the first twenty pages. But I did, and I had to read about the protagonist (I guess? Maybe there is no protagonist and they are all antagonists? It’s hard to say.) raping five-year-olds because he himself was raped. The book seemed to be positing that people who are abused will abuse others and there is no way around it. I think as readers we were supposed to feel sorry for Abdul because of what he suffered, and therefore excuse his behavior. I found that hard to do. Reading the VERY graphic details of Abdul raping young children made it difficult to find any compassion for him. I absolutely believe that many people who are abused are irrevocably damaged and will go on to repeat their abuse, and that is sad, but it also does not mean that it is something we should expect, accept, and become immune to.
I guess the bottom line is, I get what Sapphire was going for; I understand what she was attempting to show the readers. What I don’t really understand is WHY she would want to. I know many people will likely disagree with me, but this is really not something I feel the need to read about. Maybe I am sheltered and naïve, but that’s just how I feel.
Obviously, this book was not for me. That doesn’t mean that it’s not for anybody. If you are looking to peer into the evil and depravity the world has to offer, if you are looking for a book that will simultaneously make you want to scream, cry, vomit, and curl into the fetal position, then this is the book that will do it.