Review: The Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon


Title: The Last Exit to Normal
Author: Michael Harmon
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Hardcover, 288 Pages
Published March 2008
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Summary: It’s true: After 17-year-old Ben’s father announces he’s gay and the family splits apart, Ben does everything he can to tick him off: skip school, smoke pot, skateboard nonstop, get arrested. But he never thinks he’ll end up yanked out of his city life and plunked down into a small Montana town with his dad and Edward, The Boyfriend. As if it’s not painful enough living in a hick town with spiked hair, a skateboard habit, and two dads, he soon realizes something’s not quite right with Billy, the boy next door. He’s hiding a secret about his family, and Ben is determined to uncover it and set things right. In an authentic, unaffected, and mordantly funny voice, Michael Harmon tells the wrenching story of an uprooted and uncomfortable teenaged guy trying to fix the lives around him–while figuring out his own.
This book came out in 2008, which was 7 years ago, so obviously it isn't one of the super-new releases that keeps up with the times 100%. But it was still an alright book that I liked - and it was really funny at times, too. 

First thing's first: this book was alright. Nothing spectacular, but not atrocious, either. Ben's sarcastic sense of humor is what made me decide to go from giving this book two stars (It Was Okay) to three stars (I liked it). Seriously. Some of his random outbursts to others (as well as his inner thoughts) had me laughing so hard that tears were coming out of my eyes. I even took pictures of some of my favorite lines and sent them to my co-blogger to get her to laugh, too.

So, back to the story. Ben's dad announces that he's gay, his mother leaves immediately because she isn't able to handle it, and then Ben gets to move to the middle of nowhere in some rural Western town with his dad, Edward (his father's boyfriend), and Edward's mother. Oh, I almost forgot - this is AFTER Ben goes on a criminalistic spree to get back at his father for ruining his life. (Because, as Ben points out various times throughout this book, it's hard knowing that your dad married your mom and had you even when he knew he was gay the entire time. It's tough to know that your existence was formed off of lies and not love.)

The thing I wasn't so crazy about in this book was the ending. (Some spoilers are ahead, so skip to the next paragraph if you haven't read the book yet.) The last 10-15 pages or so of this book, everything happened at once. There was the fire set to kill Billy and Ben, Ben rushes in and saves Billy, and everyone and everything ended up happy and perfect. It doesn't make sense. It was too rushed. I read some other reviews of this book, and one reader brought up an excellent point - it felt as if the author had so much to say and add at the end of the book, but he didn't really want to make the book any longer than it already was (which was BS because it's only 288 pages) he decided to cram all of the climax stuff into the last 15 pages. It was just too much to absorb all at once, and it definitely made the book feel a lot less realistic. 

The other thing I didn't really understand was how unrealistic it was. Ben goes from being some punky city boy, Mohawk and everything, but then he comes to a rural town and it takes him only about a week to meet a girl, "fall in love," and change his whole appearance and the way he acts. In the beginning of the book Ben is ranting about how he knows he isn't going to fit in at his new home. It takes him less than seven days to go from being the outcast to someone who blends in perfectly.

That whole part was just a great big "Huh????????????????".

However, it was still a nice story. It was an interesting plot, to see some kid have to deal with his family splitting up because his dad was leaving his mom for another man. It's definitely a type of story that I haven't read before. Ben's quirky sense of humor and random outburst kept me laughing the entire time.

All in all, The Last Exit to Normal was an insanely humorous book about what happens when your life gets thrown upside down and you're put in a totally new situation. I liked the book, and Ben's humor was definitely the best part. I'm impressed with Michael Harmon's books and hope to read more of them in the future - I just wish the ending of this one wasn't so rushed.


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