In which I marvel at the extents to which teenage boys are willing to go for love (or to get laid)
Title: Youth in Revolt
Author: C. D. Payne
What it’s about: In many ways, Nick Twisp is your typical 14-year-old. He hates his parents, is covered in pimples, and is obsessed with sex. In other ways, Nick Twisp is an extraordinary 14-year-old. He is capable of unheard of levels of rebellion, all in the name of love. His One and Only is Sheeni Saunders: beautiful, academic, with plans to one day live in Paris with her darling husband Francois and their little dog Albert. Nick will do anything to win Sheeni’s love, going so far as to burn down the gourmet district of Berkley, slip sleeping pills to Sheeni’s interfering roommate, frame a rumored ex-boyfriend for car theft, and dress as a woman for several weeks to avoid the FBI’s detection. Granted, Nick has a lot to deal with. His rebellion is understandable. His over-the-hill mother is inexplicably pregnant by her married boyfriend Jerry, who has the nerve to die after leaving a car in their living room. His deadbeat father uses their court-mandated visits to get some free labor out of Nick and flaunt his latest live-in bimbette. His One and Only Love lives 200 miles away and just when Nick gets himself kicked out of his mother’s house and is able to move closer to his love, she transfers to a French-speaking private school in Santa Cruz! Sexually frustrated much?
Youth in Revolt is hilarious and irreverent. Nick is capable of being extremely crass, but also endearingly sweet. His love for Sheeni, whose fidelity is somewhat questionable, reminds us all of our own first love/obsession/lust/infatuation. His greatest desire is to get laid, something his suave alter ego Francois Dillinger is working towards with great concentration. I have no idea if 14-year-old boys are really like this. I’d love to know. If so, it’s amazing any of them grow to be normal functioning adults. But Nick’s journey, while almost certainly not autobiographical, is immensely funny. Author C. D. Payne perfectly captures the affected writing of an over-achieving, emotional teenager.
In the interest of full disclosure: Though I am usually a staunch advocate of reading the book before seeing the movie, I admit I did it the other way around this time. I hadn’t heard of the book until after I’d seen the movie, which I attended mostly because of my affection for Michael Cera. I am happy to report that the movie is extremely true to the book. Whole sentences are lifted directly. The split-personality bit is a little more prominent in the film and poor Nick’s story is even more complex and twisted in the novel, but overall the adaptation is quite faithful.
Would I recommend? Yes, both the book and film.