Book Quote:

” A thousand cartoons and TV shows and teen movies would lead you to believe that when you’re drawing something at your desk in school, a pretty girl is going to say ‘What are you drawing?’ and you’ll tell her and she’ll go ‘That’s neat’ and your artistry will reveal to her the secret sensitivity in your soul and she’ll leave her football-player boyfriend for you. These cartoons and TV shows and teen movies are wrong.”

Book Review:

Review by Mike Frechette (FEB 6, 2010)

Darren Bennett likes to draw. This hobby makes him insecure 1) because he’s a sophomore in high school and he’s insecure about everything, and 2) because he knows that whatever he draws will result in a false label: “If you’re drawing the female figure, you’re a pervert. If you’re drawing the male figure, you’re gay. If you’re drawing superheroes and haven’t gotten around to drawing the masks or capes or whatever yet, you’re gay.” Nevertheless, it provides a fantastical escape from his increasing isolationism in an unremarkable Arizona suburb where he lives with his good-natured but neglectful father and complete hooligan of a brother, an arrangement that resulted when his “mom kind of went haywire.” When fellow outcast Eric Lederer compliments one of Darren’s drawings after class, a friendship forms that leads to “the biggest mistake of [his] life” and perhaps the worst false label of all. From a perfectly executed prologue to a thrilling sci-fi finish, DC Pierson’s debut novel will undoubtedly captivate readers and remind them of the limitless potential of the coming-of-age novel.

The book is called The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To, a mouthful of a title to be sure. However, the plot and prose move quickly, sustained by an original voice that embodies the essence of the contemporary adolescent experience – the parlance, the peer pressure, the drugs, the angst, the awkwardness around girls. At the same time, Darren and especially Eric possess a precocious, sarcastic wit that will engage a broad adult reading audience as well. Their nerdy, adolescent ineptness together with their mature humor makes for a great combination and stands out as the novel’s most endearing quality. In a pitiful attempt to prank Darren’s brother and his friends, Darren and Eric collect cheese slices, eggs, and rope, a hodgepodge of items that “makes it pretty clear [they’ve] never gotten revenge on anybody.” When Eric sees this, he realizes, “It looks like we’re going to make an omelet…rappel in through somebody’s window, and serve it to them.”

Such mature wit – on Eric’s part at least – is due largely to the fact that he literally cannot sleep and never has – hence the title. Instead of sleeping, he spends his nights pursuing his interests, getting homework done in advance, learning, aging beyond his years. As Darren tells him, “You’ve been awake while the rest of us have been asleep. You’ve actually had more life…so you’re twice as old, in terms of experience. You’re like thirty.” Such smarts make him a great creative partner for Darren as he attempts to develop a multimedia extravaganza for the sci-fi epic he’s been slowly piecing together in his imagination. For a jaded teenager like Darren, Eric is not just a friend but “a signifier that anything can be real” – that superpowers are possible. On the flipside, he bears the burden of ongoing consciousness. As Darren later realizes, “the poor kid has to live through everything.”

Besides that, the subconscious energy expended by all other people during dreams is expressed by Eric in painful, waking hallucinatory episodes. When he starts helping Darren with his sci-fi epic, the characters and storylines become more than just words and images on a page during these hallucinations. Meanwhile, a strange man claiming to be from a local church begins pursuing Eric when he discovers through Darren’s brother that Eric does not sleep. What Darren and Eric begin to question is just how powerful the imagination is and the very nature of reality itself.

Sustaining a literary career is difficult work, but DC Pierson is off to a good start. With youth and creativity stacked in his favor (he just graduated from college in 2007), he holds promise as a literary voice resembling Christopher Moore or Chuck Palahniuk. The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep is not just another book for the likes of Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts (though it is that), but it’s also a profound, funny story about friendship, betrayal, and regret. The only regret in reading it is that the end comes too quickly, and we cannot continue with Darren to the next phase of his life. Maybe, like Darren and Eric’s project, it’s only a small piece of “a TV series culminating in a movie trilogy interspersed with books and graphic novels with any remaining holes in the epic filled in by a massively multiplayer online game.” Or maybe not. Either way, it’s still a really good book.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 47 readers
PUBLISHER: Vintage; 1 edition (January 26, 2010)
REVIEWER: Mike Frechette
AMAZON PAGE: The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To
EXTRAS: Excerpt and Author Interview
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More unique coming-of-age novels:

Wolf Boy by Evan Kuhlman

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon


February 6, 2010 · Judi Clark · 2 Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Coming-of-Age, Debut Novel, Humorous, Literary, Scifi, US Southwest

2 Responses

  1. Judi Clark - April 8, 2010

    I recently read this book and loved it! As far out as this idea is, Pierson makes it believable. Not an easy book to write a review for… but you handle quite well here. I too look forward to seeing what this author does in the future.

  2. brandi belle - November 17, 2010

    I agree with Judi. The book is just awesome. Great work. Pierson is truly remarkable.

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