Reason for Reading: I have not read this popular Canadian author, but the book intrigued me as I do like quirky, snide humour.
I'll start off with some caveats. This book is *not* for children, nor really *for* young people if one is thinking young means teenager. The word young here would apply to the opposite of old. I think the book would have been more appropriately named "Highly Inappropriate Tales *About* Young People". The publisher's summary contains this phrase " If you are over the age of consent," and if I was to recommend this book to a certain group of readers I would say those most likely to really enjoy these stories would be adults who don't really like children very much.
The stories presented here are dark, and there is no denying they are humorous but they are likely to offend just as much as they are to make one snicker. Some stories are about personified inanimate objects such as a juice box, a mini van, a fashion doll and an action figure while the others are about children (elementary to young teens, about 13). Children are murdered, tortured, harmed and caused discomfort. All of this is in the realm of snide humour. These are not fables, they have no morals. They don't have "gotcha" endings where the bad guy gets his in the end; no the bad guy always wins. Most of them really did nothing for me. I tolerated them; they certainly didn't offend me as I've read in some of the other reviews of this book. I did smirk here and there but generally the endings just fell flat with me. The one I did enjoy was "Sandra, The Truly Dreadful Babysitter". Upon arriving at her first job, the illustration shows her arriving via Mary Poppins descending from the air via an umbrella with a satchel in her other hand. She "asked the twins what they wanted to do. They said they wanted to play video games and text their friends, and Sandra said, Those are stupid and boring ideas. Let's all go shoplifting." This is the type of humour you can expect.
I did enjoy the illustration more than the text. They are quirky, creepy and add an extra element to the tales not always spelled out in the story. I think this book of stories is going to appeal to a certain audience but will offend a larger audience who buys it not realizing exactly what these stories have to offer. Certainly imaginative writing, but "caveat emptor". More a 3.5/5.
As the element of the weird gradually creeps into society and gains a cultural respectability, this little collection of zany stories serves to remind us how much of it is driven by the unhinging of the creative imagination when it comes to artistic expression. These very creepy stories are jam-packed with clever role reversals, expressions of dark humor, feelings of the macabre, and moments of revulsion. The main characters in these literary and artistic sketches are young people who exhibit anti-social behaviour that many of us would find off the charts, so why even publish them if that is what we are trying to discourage in our kids? Having personally known Roumieu sometime in the past as his high school history teacher, I have had a certain admiration for his interpretative drawings. Back then, there was only a slight hint of the bizarre or the unusual in his work. Years later, he showed some op-ed pieces that he had done for the New York Times and Walrus which showed that he was definitely stepping out into a new style of expression. I sensed the young man was finding his place in the world of competitive art by deciding to go where few others have ventured: just beyond the pale of the normal without being caught up in the abnormal itself. In other words the fringe. Ergo, today we have a cartoonist who considers his calling in life to confront us with all kinds of unsettling possibilities about what it might mean to live in a world that is not conventional. Many of these stories involve teens with troubling issues that few of us care to understand because it is not safe to identify with the weird. Trust me, this book, both by Coupland's storytelling and Roumieu's graphic illustrations, will jolt your sense of propriety by taking you into a dark, surreal and troubling Stephen King-like dimension where fictional characters and situations have definitely broken with tradition.
I just noticed that there's only one other review for this fantastic and hilarious book -- and that review was one star!! So I must correct that injustice by giving five stars! This book is truly Douglas Coupland at his best. It's a great kids book, as long as the kids are comfortable with highly inappropriate material! It's definitely on the edge of decorum, but I've read the stories to my nieces and nephews between ages 8 and 12, and they all loved the stories. We were all cracking up hysterically by some of them. And, consistent with Douglas Coupland, if you look underneath the wit, there's something truly meaningful about each one of these fantastic works of art.
This thing is a "BEST bets" 7 day loaner at the library. Makes you wonder who is paying attention over there. I read maybe 1 or 2 novels a week and I give almost all of them the chance to say something to the reader even when they are poorly written. This book should never have see the light of day never mind been printed. It's not counter culture or shocking or irreverant or humourous or even entertaining -just worthless. Absolutely without value -don't even bother.