Sunday, December 10, 2006

Book: Rats Saw God

by Rob Thomas (1996).

A brilliant YA novel I got from the library; the girl behind the counter immediately asked, "Do you watch Veronica Mars?" Oh yes, I do, and this book has a lot of things that get referenced later in the show, so I'm glad that I just did my marathon re-watch of the first two seasons.

That isn't to say that this book has anything really in common with the neo-noir world of VM. At the heart of the story is a teenage boy, Steve, who's incredibly bright but just not interested in playing along. His guidance counselor cuts him a deal: he won't have to take English over in summer school, if he writes a 100 page paper/story, on any topic he chooses. Steve wants to write fiction, but finds himself instead writing the story of his sophomore and junior years of high school. It's the story of the school club he and a friend found, the Grace Order of Dadaists (GOD); it's the story of his strained relationship with his father the astronaut; it's the story of his first love, a fellow nonconformist named Wanda Varner.

And here's where I have to catalogue all the things in the book that have made their way into VM, because my enjoyment of this book, at least in part, stems from recognizing these things, and feeling right at home in any world created by Rob Thomas. So, Wanda Varner shows up again in the VM episode "Return of the Kane," albeit sans her nickname (Dub), and with a little snitching problem. A reveal towards the end about Book Wanda's indiscretions reminded me distinctly of the plot of "Mars vs. Mars." The title of the book itself gets referenced in an episode title from season two, "Rat Saw God," only this time it's a clue in the bus crash investigation, not something the dadaists spell out with their hands in a yearbook picture. And then there is, of course, the entire snarky tone of the book, which had me cracking up in my room for the one entire evening it took me to finish the book.

I cried a bit when it ended, too, because Rob Thomas is just that good.

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