I’m making more of an effort to read out of my comfort zone these days, and To Me You Seem Giant by Greg Rhyno is a definitely a great example of this. It’s about music and teenage boys, both things I’m not too interested in these days (mind you, it was all I thought about when I was a teenager, but since I just recently celebrated a mid-30s birthday, I’ve thankfully moved on to more mature interests). Anyway, despite my misgivings about the subject matter, I really enjoyed this book, it felt like a trip back into my own youth, and from my own female perspective, the characterization of the young male protagonists really rang true.
The book is styled and formatted with a music lover in mind, more specifically a person who loves cassette tapes. The story toggles between Side A and Side B; Side A being the story of Pete Curtis’s last year of high school in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Side B is the story of Pete Curtis’s first year of teaching high school in Thunder Bay, exactly ten years later in 2004. In his youth, Pete was part of a relatively successful garage band named “The Giant Killers” who had a talented songwriter and singer at their helm: “Soda”. But when speed ahead to Pete’s adult years, we realize that something went terribly wrong that last year of high school which saw Soda realize his dream of becoming a rock star while his bandmates are left in their hometown pursuing more practical career paths. As a high school teacher Pete is only slightly bitter about this disappointment, but he’s still struggling to find something that brought him as much joy as making music once did.
This book is firmly anchored with popular and alternative music from 1994, so for those who were alive then, you’ll get those warm and fuzzy feelings of recognition with the name dropping. Just the descriptions of building mix tapes and the pure joy of having your favourite song come on the radio are wonderfully portrayed in this book. I know it sounds corny, but reading this made me nostalgic for that time in my life, even though I had dreadlocks (cringe).
Rhyno uses technology as a way to drum up some nostalgia for 2004 in the Side B sections. Although it was only 15 years ago, it still seems so far away. For instance, Pete regularly goes to rent movies at his local video store because he resents the proliferation of blockbuster locations popping up (!!!) and he’s just gotten his first cell phone and doesn’t know how to use it. 15 years ago people! Instead of making me smile wistfully into the distance like Side A accomplishes, I just felt old reading Side B. I can’t help but imagine this was the intention of the author, regardless of how cruel it may seem.
The friendships between the male characters were my favourite parts. I struggle to think of a topic I know less about than friendships between teenage boys BUT I still think these were well done, despite my lack of knowledge. The way the boys spoke, interacted with each other, and left so many things unsaid was like a window into a club I’ve never been allowed into until now. Sometimes they did mean things to each other, but each character was drawn so empathetically I felt like they were friends of mine by the end of the book; I was sad to close the last page on them. I didn’t connect with the characters as much when they were older, but the author did a great job of continuing their voices into the future decade. Everyone always says they don’t feel older, they just look older, and this book is a great demonstration of that; Pete ages in numbers only, and the fact that he finds himself in the same hallways of the same school as a teacher years later is telling demonstration of this.
I think we all have a picture of ourselves that we mega cringe when we see. For me, it’s of one Halloween when I was a kid. I went as a granny — that was my costume — and my makeup looks suspiciously NOT acceptable. I’ll leave it at that.
I think the thing that gets me is that children today have an internet presence that they themselves did not create, often starting with mom’s ultrasound pic. I mean, can you imagine not controlling how you are presented online? That thought practically paralyzes me.
Yes so true! I post photos of my kids on my personal fb and instagram accounts, but I don’t put any of my kids stuff on my ivereadthis accounts. But I wonder now-does that really make a difference? It’s all the same internet LOL
I have no idea. I don’t over-think it simply because I don’t have kids. I think as long as people post pictures of minors with respect in mind, it should be fine. When I read posts about how someone’s child crapped in the potty for the first time, or bathtub pics, I feel sad.
haha yes, so true. Bathtub pics are definitely a no go for the internet
Ah, the mixed tape! I wonder how young people manage to woo each other without being able to hand over a mixed tape made specially for their love! I don’t think sending someone a link to a Spotify playlist is quite the same… 😉
Gosh and I haven’t really gotten into spotfiy myself. I still like listening to the radio when I drive in my car!
OH, I love the technique of side A and side B. I guess I’m going to have to check this out! (Also, that’s exactly what I was doing 15 years ago. I vividly remember struggling to correctly follow the procedure for accepting a phone call on my new cell phone WHILE walking to the indie video rental shop. *nods*)
right??? So much nostalgia in this book, it’s really wonderful.
My son Deacon was a student of Greg Rhyno’s, at John F. Ross in Guelph, and very much the model for the character”Deacon”
in the book.
Oh interesting! Writers always pull from reality, so that’s very cool.
Have you read the article about the last Blockbuster store in the world? You should look that up. It’s basically still running because it’s a tourist attraction. People come from all over the world. Anyway, I loved your 1994 picture. Music and boys was pretty much all I thought about then too! 🙂 90’s alternative and grunge was the BEST.
haha I’ve never heard of this ‘last blockbuster’ but it sounds amazing! I can almost smell the old blockbuster I used to go into…
Oh my goodness, your dreadlocks! I know there are some embarrassing photos of me from around that era too! I was pretty sheltered growing up so I don’t feel much nostalgia for the 90s. But 2004 nostalgia, I can totally get behind. Crazy to think how much our world has changed in such a short time.
I know! I feel sooooooo old haha
Oh how I miss our local video store! I used to love going there to browse the movies, and the kids loved going to pick out a Dora video. It was a weekly outing!
I’m going to have to check out this book.
It’s definitely fun-a few years old from Newest
And great picture of you – love it!