Tuesday, 27 March 2012

99 Reasons Why

There are hundreds of reasons why I eagerly awaited the launch of 99 Reasons Why. Caroline Smailes is a hugely talented author who readers can always rely upon to come up with something new and something original. Her earlier novels included poetic prose forming artistic patterns on the page, small chunks of text in sign language, a beer swilling Jesus living in Malta - she is a bit special, a one off. 

So it's little surprise that, in the world of e-publishing, she has once again come up with something original - a book with eleven different endings. No doubt, had the book been released in print, Caroline and her equally adventurous publisher Scott Pack would have included one of these origami fortune tellers to help you to choose your ending. It's a great idea and I wanted to love the book.

Unfortunately I didn't love it.  The novella is told in the voice of twenty-two year old Kate. Kate talks to the reader in an authentic North Eastern voice and I felt as if I was being told a story by Sarah Millican. So far so good. The voice is brilliant. Kate is reclusive, thinks that Princess Di was her mother and is being paid £90 every week by a shady uncle (who may or may not be her dad) to monitor the comings and goings at the Kevin Keegan day nursery opposite her house. She spends her free time buying Princess Di memorabilia on eBay. This is fascinating stuff but, whereas I could empathise with the miserable existences of characters in Caroline's Black Boxes and In Search Of Adam, I couldn't warm to Kate and her ghastly parents who would fit perfectly into the cast of Shameless - feckless work shy dad and foul mouthed lazy mum. Smailes' skill as an author presents the reader with visceral images of Kate and her bodily fluids - blood, vomit, piss and more, in situations that would have evoked my sympathy in other books but here just left my nose wrinkling and "yeuch" in my mind.

It's a page turner, cleverly written in short chapters or "reasons"and it's a must read for anyone who appreciates something different. But by the time I reached the choose an ending process I wished the whole family dead. Unfortunately as I hit on a happy ending, my wish was not fulfilled. Of course I went back and found a Tarantino ending which might have been preferable first time around but there was something strange about going back to a new ending that for me didn't feel right. I tried several more endings but felt that once I'd been to an ending I was out of the loop of the story and to get the most from the process I would have to start back at page one.

So it's five stars from me for originality and exceptional writing but, as I didn't enjoy the experience, it's sadly not going to join Caroline Smailes' other books amongst my all time favourites. Well three out of four ain't bad.