Review: The Storied Life of A J Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

I really liked this book! I was lucky enough to have the time to read it all in one sitting. I won’t say that this book is the next best piece of great literature, but it doesn’t have to be does it? It was the kind of book where you see some things coming but some things you don’t. The main character lives above the bookstore he owns – a setting like that was obviously one of the main reasons I liked it. The story has a bit of everything, children, mystery, love, death, tons of books. I don’t think everyone would love this story but I think people who tend to like popular fiction, young adult, light vacation -read-type books would really enjoy it and I think if they make a movie, which it looks like they are, it will be really popular. Gabrielle Zevin has a great writing style; it’s funny and sweet, and easy to just fly through. I loved it that the main character was a bit cranky in a humorous way that lets you know he’s still a good man. I like it that he’s a person of colour without the book being ‘a person of colour narrative’ if you know what I mean? It wasn’t full of racism or cultural references or a story that relied heavily on him being someone who wasn’t white. It was perfect. My favourite quote in the book is when he tells the publishing rep what he likes and doesn’t like in terms of a book.  I know quotes and plots are not what I like to share in my reviews but this one is so good – and doesn’t give away the plot.

 

“I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn’t be — basically, gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful — nonfiction only, please. I do not like genre mash-ups a la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying. I do not like children’s books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter my shelves with young adult. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity pictures books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and — I imagined this goes without saying — vampires. I rarely stock debuts, chick lit, poetry, or translations. I would prefer not to stock series, but the demands of my pocketbook require me to. For your part, you needn’t tell me about the ‘next big series’ until it is ensconced on the New York Times Best Sellers list.”

 

I agree with a lot of what AJ Fikry says about genres and plots, not all of it but a fair bit. I found him to be relatable despite us having virtually nothing in common except for a love of reading.

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