Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Vast Fields of Ordinary Review

I saw this book in a lot of In My Mailbox posts so I thought I'd check it out.

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd


Dade Hamilton is just passing the time until he starts college in his boring Iowa town. Everyone is always the same and nobody knows that Dade is gay. Or at least they don't know for sure. Dade has been sleeping with his classmate Pablo for a couple of years but Pablo is too busy with his girlfriend to give Dade any extra time. While Dade copes with his loneliness he meets a small-time drug dealer named Alex and suddenly, his summer veers onto a very different course.

Quiet, lyrical, thoughtful, honest and sometimes surprising-- those are the words I'd use to describe this book. I feel like we really see the evolution of Dade over the summer and what's funny is that Dade sees it too and even he is impressed with himself. When the book starts Dade is (to steal a quote from Xander on Buffy) "a font of nothing" or rather the kind of guy who keeps to himself and blends into the background. He tries to hang around Pablo but he can't really stand Pablo's jock buddies anyway. Dade spends a lot of time hanging around the house, listening to his music, thinking.

It's the little things that make up Dade's journey. He hangs out with his parents and watches them fall apart. He goes to work and sidesteps the fury and uncertainty of twins Jessica and Fessica. He befriends a new girl on the street who is also gay and becomes ones of his biggest confidants. He travels with Alex who takes him to places he never meant to go. These moments and decisions and discoveries drive the plot so that we really get inside Dade's head and see all these outside influences and experiences that help shape him into the young man he's learning himself to be. There's no heart stopping action or anything like that but it's the words that will keep you reading.

What I loved most about this book is the world that Burd created. Yes, it's contemporary, it's the US, it's Iowa but there was also a rich setting that helped propel the story. Burd created all these nifty bands and song titles that create a silent soundtrack for the story. There was also the kidnapping case of Jenny Moore, a local girl who disappears. Her story inundated the news and by association she also flooded the lives of Dade and his friends. I really like these kind of background details in any novel, weaving in all these different elements to tell one story. I thought it made the book very sophisticated and creative.

The language in the book is very authentic, not only with the dialogue, but the narration too. I really liked how Dade could be so innocent at times and just full of feeling. Burd was able to capture the feelings that anyone has for a first love whether straight or gay. Sometimes I just had to wince while reading because Dade's feelings were so raw and real. The dialogue is also wonderful and the main source for humor in the book. I especially liked reading how Alex talked with his friends and Lucy, Dade's lesbian friend, always tossed off a hilarious sarcastic zinger. Also, those mean girls said some really mean things.

This book is more than a coming out story. In fact, that part is a small section of the story. This is more of a general coming-of-age novel, classic teen finding himself in the world. For a sophisticated, amusing and pleasant read, I would recommend this one.

In fact, I think reading this book was worth it only because it contains the phrase "douche cougar." I don't know why but after I read that I laughed and I'm still laughing. I can't wait until I have the opportunity to use it.

PS- Today, I learned that Bobby Caldwell is white. I'm so surprised! haha. "What You Won't Do For Love" is the jam! I just assumed... all these years of hearing him on my parents' old soul radio stations and now the ones I listen to on my own... he got me! Just like KC and Sunshine Band!


  1. ROFL. What the hell is a douche cougar? Sounds like something my husband would say.

  2. Great review. Wouldn't have picked this up on my own. You've piqued my interest. Thanks.

  3. Wonderful review. I thought this sounded great and bought it myself. I'm really hoping to read it soon.


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