Sunday, November 11, 2012
In writing you hear the mantra "show and don't tell" all the time. But sometimes, just occasionally, writers break that rule and it works. Fitz is an example of that. This is not the type of book where you go on a grand adventure with the main character, or follow his struggles for months and years. Instead the book takes place over the course of one day. Fitz (the main character as well as title) is searching for answers about his past. And while these stories may be told through dialogue, they're nonetheless compelling.
Fitz is a believable narrator. I instantly bought into the voice of this novel. Fitz is confused. He feels like he's missing something vital in life. But he's a good kid--makes good grades, doesn't get into trouble, treats his mom well. Except on this one day, that's not who Fitz wants to be. Like a costume, he puts on a thuggish persona and sets out to teach his father a lesson.
The thing is Fitz has never met his father. He's been this distant unknown, his mother not even willing to tell him his father's name. All of that only makes Fitz more curious. Instead of just listening to his mother's stories, Fitz takes matters into his own hands, finding out everything he can about his mysterious father.
While his father may send the monthly check, Fitz knows it's no replacement for a relationship. What Fitz wants is time and answers. His mother refuses to give him the answers and his father has never given him any time. Fitz decides to take what he wants, kidnapping his father to force some father/son bonding time.
The voice in this novel is perfect. Sometimes Fitz tries to sound mean and harsh, but you can tell that he doesn't even quite believe it himself. He's not much of a bad guy, even though he's kidnapping his father. Fitz may wave a gun around but the reader never believes he's really capable of shooting anyone. This creates a strange sympathy for Fitz. Yes he's doing something stupid, but as the reader you really don't want to see him punished for it.
While the story is small what it means for one boy's life isn't. Sometimes things that don't seem important to you might be all consuming to someone else. That's how Fitz feels about finding out why his father left. As far as problems go, it might seem fairly minor. Except for Fitz it's the most important question in the world.
The epilogue undermines the rest of this book. It feels tacked on, like the author didn't really know how to end the story. So while the rest of the book was understated and impactful, the epilogue was too clean and simple to match the realism of Fitz's story. It's a bad way to end an otherwise great book.