Sunday, February 20, 2011

This month’s book: The Pluto Project by Melissa Glenn Haber

plutoThis book isn’t new, but somehow I just discovered it.  14-year-old Alan works hard at being unobtrusive (just one of the words his favorite teacher, Mrs. Perry, uses to describe him, others being misanthrope, cynic, curmudgeon), trying not to get noticed by Rory Frankel and his gang, who spend most of their time beating up Morris Kaufman, just like they have since elementary school.  Alan lives in a big empty house, almost empty even of furniture, with his dad and his aunt Trish, who moved in after his mother died.  Alan and his group of friends spend a lot of time hanging around in a culvert by the side of a road, listening to the conversations of passersby, and pretending to solve crimes by discovering clues to the activities of CRAP, Conspiracy Rule American People. “The whole thing had all started off as a joke.  Of course it still was a joke, but not the way it had been when they’d first started the game…”  In fact, Alan comes to believe it isn’t a joke at all, when he thinks they’ve heard a conversation linked to the assassination of the governor.  Alan is amazing at finding meaning in lines of poetry at school, and he becomes obsessed with finding meaning in the clues he discovers in the culvert.  I’ve just learned there’s a word for this: pariedolia, which means the tendency to ascribe meaning to random stimuli. Alan also becomes obsessed with the new girl at school, Juliet (“like the play), and as his obsession grows, he neglects his other friends.  Alan’s home life is pretty terrible, and the pressure of his father forcing his new girlfriend, Cheryl, into Alan’s life, along with Alan’s belief that he is the only one who can stop another assassination attempt, pretty much drive him around the bend.  I love everything about this book –the characters, the suspense, the sadness, Alan’s poetic interpretations.  Review by Stacy Church