Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review: Next

Summary: One Man, one day, and a novel bursting with drama, comedy, and humanity. Kevin Quinn is a standard-variety American male: middle-aged, liberal-leaning, self-centered, emotionally damaged, generally determined to avoid both pain and responsibility. As his relationship with his girlfriend approaches a turning point, and his career seems increasingly pointless, he decides to secretly fly to a job interview in Austin, Texas. Aboard the plane, Kevin is simultaneously attracted to the young woman in the seat next to him and panicked by a new wave of terrorism in Europe and the UK. He lands safely with neuroses intact and full of hope that the job, the expansive city, and the girl from the plane might yet be his chance for reinvention.

His next eight hours make up this novel, a tour-de-force of mordant humor, brilliant observation, and page-turning storytelling. -- Reagan Arthur

As most of you already know, I am co-hosting The Reagan Arthur Books Challenge with Kathy (aka BermudaOnion.) I have had such a terrific time reading the books published under the Reagan Arthur imprint -- there really are some special books! In fact, the latest Reagan Arthur book that I've read is titled NEXT by James Hynes, and it's a marvelous one!

I have seen many rave reviews about James Hynes and his novel NEXT from some very credible sources; however, I still picked up the book not really knowing what to expect (besides great writing!) I had no idea that the entire 300 plus page book covered only eight hours (I know the book's description clearly spells that out, but I guess I missed it), and I kept waiting for something to happen. Believe me when I say that something does happen, and boy is it huge!

Basically in the first half to two-thirds of the book, there isn't a lot of action. Kevin flies from his home in Michigan to Texas for an interview for a new job. He doesn't tell anyone, including his girlfriend, that he is leaving for the day -- interpret that as you will. Once he lands in Austin, he has quite a few hours to kill before his interview so he walks around the city following the young woman that he sat next to on the plane (a little strange, yes?) A few little things happen to Kevin during the day, but for the most part, he just walks around the city. Surprisingly, I didn't find these pages to be slow, but I can see how some readers will want more from the beginning of the novel.

I think what captivated me most about this novel was Kevin, the narrator of the story. Throughout the entire novel, the reader gets to see straight into Kevin's mind -- in fact, NEXT actually reads like Kevin's stream of consciousness. Kevin is definitely out there. I wouldn't go so far as to say that he is totally creepy, but he does have a little creep factor to me. (However, if I was allowed into any man's mind for eight hours, I might find him a little "off" as well.) I think Kevin appeared a little strange to me because his thoughts were so brutally honest. I got to see his insecurities, his imagination, his paranoia about terrorism, and his even his feelings towards women (I guess it is true that men think about women and sex a few minutes of every hour!)

One of the things I absolutely adored about this novel was how the author got inside Kevin's mind. I was blown away by how Kevin would be walking down a street and just see something; and then his mind would wander to something that happened in his past. I felt it was very realistic how Hynes portrayed that events in our everyday life trigger memories from our past. I also love how this book caused me to pause and think about the importance of all random happenings in our daily life.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Mr. Hynes' writing! This is the first novel that I've read by Mr. Hynes, and he definitely has a style that's all his own. His writing is smart, sharp, witty, and often times almost lyrical to me (which is actually a really odd combination if you think about it.) I thought Kevin's innermost thoughts and observations were so unique and insightful, and I also loved how Mr. Hynes transitioned between the past and present. Truly, this book was very well done!

I would love to write more about what happens in NEXT, but it wouldn't be fair to potential readers. I think everyone who picks up this book should have the exact same reaction as I did! In fact, NEXT is one of those books that really caused me think (after the whole shock factor eased a bit!) Immediately after I finished it, I wanted to call someone to talk about Kevin right away. That always indicates to me that a book is a good one for book clubs. I not 100% sure that NEXT is for everyone, but I have no doubt that this novel will stimulate thought and ultimately discussion!

NEXT is one of the most original books that I've read in a long time. The writing is out of this world, and I promise you that the way this book ends will stay with you for a very long time. I can't stress enough how good I think these Reagan Arthur books are, so come join us for this low-stress (and very fun) challenge!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Now that's not fair! Now you have my curiosity piqued! I love the whole idea of this book. I would imagine that we would find just about anybody's internal thoughts a little alarming, including my own! I'm off to do a little searching on my library's website...

bermudaonion said...

I agree that it would be totally unfair to give away any of the ending, because for me, that's what made the book. Fantastic review!

Beth F said...

So glad this is another winner for the imprint. This summer I hope to get going on this challenge.

Unknown said...

Julie, thanks so much for your kind words about the imprint and especially about NEXT. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one and I appreciate the smart and careful review! - Reagan