book reviews

Calvin, by Martine Leavitt: Brief But Hopefully Convincing Thoughts

9781554987207_HR_1024x1024I’ll say it right off, in case you don’t feel like reading this whole post: Calvin is the best YA book I’ve read in eons. A 17-year-old kid has a schizophrenic episode and thinks he’s Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. He hears Hobbes with him. There are just too many coincidences for him to think he’s not. He was born on the day the comic strip ended. His parents named him Calvin. His uncle gave him a stuffed tiger named Hobbes. He’s just like Calvin. He has blond hair and had a red wagon. His dad wears glasses. And his first grade teacher’s name is Miss Wood. “How close can you get to Miss Wormwood. Huh? Huh?” And of course, there’s real-life Susie, his ex-friend, or frenemy, with whom he’s grown up and who happens to carry the same name of the indomitable Susie in the strip.

Calvin becomes convinced that if he goes to see the author of Calvin & HobbesBill Watterson, Bill will write a comic with him but without Hobbes, to “properly” end the series and thus cure him of his mental illness. So he sets off across frozen Lake Erie to Cleveland, Susie along for the adventure. (Or is she?)

How to describe the book I read in only a few hours, an epistolary novel (Calvin’s writing the story to Bill)? It’s beautiful! The workings of this kid’s gorgeous, tragically ill mind! (The workings of Martine Leavitt‘s beautiful, creative mind!) I loved how because he’s unreliable you have no idea whether anything is really happening, whether anything but him is real. And whether he’s even on the adventure. And there are even Spaceman Spiff and Stupendous Man episodes!!

A few of my favourite lines:

They say a person my age knows maybe thirty thousand words, so picking the first word out of thirty thousand is the hardest part. After you pick the first word, it weirdly picks the next one, and that one picks the one after that, and next thing you know you’re not in control at all — the pen is as big as a telephone pole and you’re just hanging on for dear life… [Just like writing a story, yes?]

Doesn’t it make you feel kind of awesome that the world is beautiful for no other apparent reason than that it is? Like beauty has its own secret reason. It doesn’t need human eyes to notice. It just wants to be glorious and unbelievable.

Do you ever wonder what life is all about, Calvin? Yeah, I know you do. You’re one of the few guys I personally know who stops to wonder about that. For me — I’ve decided maybe that’s the cool thing about it. Life lets you decide for yourself. I mean, it would be awful if it wasn’t up to us, wouldn’t it? If life said, this is what I’m about and don’t go getting any ideas of your own?

Augh, this book. Read it. It’s such a lovely, imaginative story, and if you’ve been an undying fan of Calvin & Hobbes since you were young, like me, it’s that much more special. The world is a magical place.

*Thank you so very much to Cindy Ma, from Anansi Press, for knowing me and loving like crazy sharing any book she adores. You’re always right, Cindy. Always.

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