Monday, February 8, 2010

Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger

Title: Almost Like Being in Love
Author: Steve Kluger
Publisher: HarperCollins (2004)

Travis, a slightly OCD nerd, and Craig, a successful athlete, meet during a production of Brigadoon in high school and fall in love towards the end of their senior year. After spending the summer together they attend colleges on opposite sides of the country and eventually lose touch. Flash forward 20 years to 1998 and Travis, a slough of unsuccessful relationships behind him, wonders if the love of his life is still Craig. And, oh yeah, is Craig still thinking about him?

Almost Like Being in Love is a really sweet story. I mean a really, really sweet story. In fact, it'd be a little over-the-top saccharine if not for the fun style and Kluger's obvious sense of whimsy and humor. The story is presented via newspaper clippings, assignments, journal entries, library research requests and even trial transcripts. It makes the story a fun puzzle but don't worry it's never confusing. It's also laugh out loud funny most of the time. Like on p. 157 when Travis, a history professor, presents an extra credit question to his students regarding the best way to track down Craig. Remember, Travis is a stickler for order and correctness. Student Chuck Navarro answers:
I vote for St. Louis because you're ready to handle it. Know how I know? Go back to multiple choice (a). "There's laws against stalking." Wrong. "There ARE laws against stalking." Welcome to the Human Fucking Race.

Or on p. 251 when Travis's friend, who's writing a screenplay based on the whole fiasco, says:
I'm running into a little snag. I thought it'd be more realistic if Craig had a boyfriend--but I think I've written myself into a corner. How do I keep Travis from giving up?

This is that obvious sense of humor of Kluger's because right around this time, as a Reader, I was like, "Hey, Mr. Kluger, how are you going to get out of this without making Travis look like a jizzwad?" I had to laugh as Kluger clearly knew what I was thinking.

But then you'll also run by a section that has some real meat to it. On p. 233, in a nice Kids Say the Darnedest Things way, 11yo Noah asks (condensed):
"They won't let you and Clayton get married, right?"
"And a long time ago, they wouldn't let Rosa Parks sit in a bus either--right?"
"And now everybody thinks the people who arrested her were skanks, right?"
"So how come they don't know that in a hundred years we'll think the same things about the skanky guys who won't let you get married?"

(I love the excellent use of skank.)
(I also hope it's less than a hundred years.)

Travis and Craig are great protags to root for and the supporting cast isn't bad either. Gordo, Travis's roommate in high school and present day, ended up being a huge surprise. When he was first introduced I had no idea he was going to become so interesting. He's also a great friend to Travis which is always good. However, the supporting characters did sometimes fall into a few cliches I could have done without. Like in Gordo's case, why does there always have to be a slutty friend? Is it just me that's missing out on a ridiculously slutty friend? If I were a character in a book would I then have a slutty friend? I fully support anyone's right to do the sweaty tango as often as they like with as many people as they like but it's just so often overdone in books.

Also, I found the characterization to be a bit flawed. Sometimes I'd be reading a journal entry and forget whose perspective it was. Character voice over-lapped quite a bit. I really liked the characters so it didn't bother me too much but I still think they should have been more distinct.

The book reminded me yet again how awesome the webbie be! Holy crap, it's so much easier to do research (read: stalk the world) in the age of the internet. I've assimilated so well into this age that I have relegated my pre-internet life to a dark corner of my brain so I don't think about it much but holy shit the world wide web is fucking awesome!

rating: 3 of 5 stars

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