Monday, 8 April 2013

Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going

The Book
This young adult book took my by surprise. I guess maybe it's because I tend to be a little bit prejudiced against young adult books sometimes. There's so many of them that are romantic fluff that I get surprised when I find one that takes a serious topic and handles it beautifully.

This novel doesn't just take one topic. It takes several such as depression, attempted suicide, death of a parent, sibling rivalry, being overweight, bullying, drug addiction, homelessness, true friendship, and the purpose of music. That doesn't even cover all of them. However it's anything but sad and dreary. I found myself laughing dozens of times at Troy's clever observations and hilarious self-depreciating humor. I also ended up caring so much about the characters that I cried for them. There's also a philosophy in the book that will leave me trying to "see through the bullshit" for the rest of my life.

The blurb for this book is:
Troy Billings is seventeen, 296 pounds, friendless, utterly miserable, and about to step off a New York subway platform in front of an oncoming train. Until he meets Curt MacCrae, an emaciated, semi-homeless, high school dropout guitar genius, the stuff of which Lower East Side punk rock legends are made. Never mind that Troy’s dad thinks Curt’s a drug addict and Troy’s brother thinks Troy’s the biggest (literally) loser in Manhattan. Soon, Curt’s recruited Troy as his new drummer—even though Troy can’t play the drums. Together, Curt and Troy will change the world of punk, and Troy’s own life, forever.

Although Troy and Curt are fairly close in age and have the same high school in common, these are the only traits they share. In every other aspect they couldn't be more opposite. Troy is an overweight loser and Curt is considered a local rock legend. Using the phrases "overweight loser" and "local rock legend" cheapens these characters though. They are anything but stereotypes. That's what makes this novel so great. The truth of who they are is what matters in this story. Even Troy's military father defies the stereotype of a cold, hard Marine.

There's also one particular line that stuck with me. Forgive me if it's a paraphrased. "The words I had been waiting to hear my whole life were the ones I needed to give away." There's something so beautifully profound about that. It speaks to me about my own life.

Equally unforgettable is the scene when Troy and Curt are in the restaurant and Curt helps Troy see the world in an entirely different way. I would love to tell you what that is but I never give spoilers in my reviews.

Ultimately the book is a lesson about not giving up on yourself and not giving up on the people you care about. None of these are topics you would expect in a book about being in a punk rock band. When you think of punk music you think of rebellion, anarchy, and destruction. Don't worry. Those things are in there.

My rating and I don't give this many out often: Photobucket

The Movie
I wanted the movie Fat Kid Rules the World to be great too. I especially had high expectations because Matthew Lillard was directing. He was so amazing in the movie SLC Punk that you expect him to really get what the book is about. Unfortunately the movie tended to revert this deep characters back to stereotypes. Troy is a typical fat kid and we just don't get to see inside his mind. This is why we read books though isn't it? Movies just don't show the inner thoughts of people unless there are voice overs. I honestly think a voice over would have given Troy the depth he had in the book.

What was missing the most was the humor of the book. I wanted the movie to show how smart, clever, and perceptive Troy really was but unfortunately the screenwriter just didn't catch it. I don't really blame Matthew Lillard's directing. I mostly blame the screenwriter who on some levels just didn't seem to get the true meaning of Fat Kid Rules the World.

Curt is only a hint of of what he is in the book. The movie version doesn't catch his mannerisms, his hyperactiveness, how dirty and disheveled he really was, or how he was treated like a local rock god. In the movie, Curt was disrespected by his fellow band members and just wasn't treated with the awe that he was in the book. This is what made the book so fascinating. Curt had an image and reputation for being a rock god despite being a filthy, homeless, drug addict. He was an enigma, not a stereotype.

Don't get me wrong. The movie is good, but it could have so much more. It just seemed to care more about plot than it did about character.

It's probably more like 3 1/2 but... Photobucket

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