100. THE LAST ILLUSION, BY POROCHISTA KHAKPOUR
Recommended by a friend who I’d rather not name. He is a very pretentious sort of person... I do like him, and I’m only saying this here because I’m confident he will never read this, but he is pretentious, and a literary snob. And it shows.
Synopsis: Disgusted by his light skin and hair, Zal’s mother decides to raise him as a bird. She locks him in a cage, feeds him bird food, and never teaches him to speak or be a person. He is rescued and adopted by a behavior scientist, who sets about turning Zal from a feral child to a “real person”.
Overall enjoyment: God, this book is so pretentious I had to make a conscious effort not to roll my eyes at every phrase. Everyone is so Different, and full of Quirks (yes, both capitalized), there is hardly any space left for actual characterization and plot. It’s absolutely forgettable; I’ve read it less than a week ago and I’ve already forgotten how it ends. A year from now, all that will be left is a condescending smile and an eye-roll.
Plot: There isn’t one. Really. There is something about a magic number, and some romantic subplot, something that might, on the right light and with lots of good will, pass for a coming of age... But none of those are really worth noting.
Characters: Ugh. You know the fake-deep thing? Stuff (and characters) that aren’t deep at all, but try so hard to be... Asiya (white girl, of course), the romantic interest, is the classic Manic Pixie Dream Girl, down to the romanticized eating disorder. Zal is bland and indefinite. None of the characters have true depth, but they have Quirks a-plenty in an effort to hide it.
World/setting: Doesn’t have any importance in the story. Near the end of the book she tries to make different references to 9/11, and there are so many of them they start to get wild and unintentionally funny.
Writing style: Again, you know when something isn’t deep but tries so hard to be? There is no substance, so she plays tricks to make up for it.
Representation: Zal is supposedly Iranian, but he’s light-skinned, with blue eyes and blond hair.
Political correctness: There is an attempt at reflecting what makes a person “normal” and, specifically, what makes a man a “man”, but it’s very much lost among all the pretentiousness. And the (very little) science she tries to use as background is factually incorrect.
Up next: The Thief Taker, by C. S. Quinn