Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre is dark, it's gritty, it's modern and yet... it wasn't for me.
The book is described as "A 21st-century comedy in the presence of death". It is supposed to be a comedy, a satire of modern American life and it was at times deliciously wicked in that sense.
The book is written from the perspective of the protagonist, Vernon Little, who is accused of taking part in a school shooting with his Mexican friend Jesus Navarro. He finds himself caught in the legal system, desperately seeking to have his own story heard.
Vernon Little is a strong character; he sees all the injustices of the world through a teenagers eyes, watching all the ridiculousness of the world conspire against him but unable to do anything about it. Instead he is forced to escape to Mexico where he finds that he is ultimately unable to avoid the traps that life has set for him.
This books takes aim at many aspects of contemporary society; consumerism, materialism, opportunism, modern media hype, the legal system, the health system. It paints the picture of a world where people are willing to put themselves above all else, at great risk to others. It is these aspects of society that Pierre plays upon, showing us the worst side of ourselves by making fun of contemporary society and human relationships.
Objectively, I was able to greatly admire the DBC Pierre's writing - the use of Vernon's first person narrative voice was colloquial to say the least and I found the shock value that this added to the story was effective. I do think though, that at times the narrative voice wasn't true to a teenage boy. Despite the often crude language and colloquial tone, it was sometimes just a little too thoughtful and insightful to be the voice of someone of that age. I can't quite imagine a teenage boy, even one in Vernon's position, being able to analyse the world around him in quite the way that Vernon does.
I have to admit that although objectively I could see where the author was going with the satire and the comedy, it fell short for me. I didn't find it funny or humorous. In fact I found it dark and depressing.
More than that, I found that it didn't grab my attention in the way that I would have liked. I enjoyed the flaws of the characters and I enjoyed Pierre's piercing writing, but the story didn't move me enough to excite any great feeling. Some parts of the book I found myself skimming through, just flipping the pages until something caught my attention. When I stopped and delved back in to the book properly, despite having ostensibly missed some of the story, I was still able to pick it up again wherever I landed. The story just seemed to move along at a slower pace than I would have liked, with little happening to move the story along.
I did find myself becoming very emotional toward the end, which is a sign of a good book - but at the same time the book came to an end so suddenly with such a major twist that I felt a little bit cheated. I didn't have that emotional release - that chance to sigh and get used to the end of the story. I wanted to feel better but I was left with a lingering sense of malcontent in relation to the lead up to the end.
Perhaps all these things are what DBC Pierre intended me to feel at the end of Vernon God Little and perhaps not. Either way, although I admire the book objectively - it isn't a book that sat well with me at all.
What kind of read is this?
Great writing and challenging content.
Do I recommend this book?
I want to recommend it because I know it is a well written and meaningful book, but I just can't. I just didn't appreciate it on an emotional level, and that is what counts for me.
Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Have you read Vernon God Little? I would be interested to know if people did find that they were drawn into the story and what it was that grabbed you and pulled you in. I feel as though I am missing out on something but I am not sure what.