Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Finny

Summary: Justin Kramon’s debut novel, Finny, is a sweeping, enchanting voyage, an insightful story about a young woman’s complicated path to adulthood.

We meet Finny Short as an observant, defiant fourteen-year-old who can’t make sense of her family’s unusual habits: Her mother offers guidance appropriate for a forty-year-old socialite; her father quotes Nietzsche over pancakes. Finny figures she’s stuck with this lonely lot until she meets Earl Henckel, a boy who comes from an even stranger place than she does. Unhappy with Finny’s budding romance with Earl, her parents ship her off to Thorndon boarding school. But mischief follows Finny as she befriends New York heiress Judith Turngate, a girl whose charm belies a disquieting reckless streak.

Finny’s relationships with Earl and Judith open her up to dizzying possibilities of love and loss and propel her into a remarkable adventure spanning twenty years and two continents. Justin Kramon has given us a wickedly funny odyssey with a moving and original love story at its core.

Finny introduces us to an unforgettable heroine, a charmingly intricate world, and an uncommonly entertaining and gifted young novelist. -- Random House

If you follow my blog much, you probably know that I absolutely love coming-of-age stories! There is just something about these types of books that appeal to me and warm my heart. Well, I am so happy to say that I recently "discovered" another fantastic one called FINNY by Justin Kramon. I really enjoyed this novel, and I hope that it's going to be a big hit this summer with both readers and book clubs!

FINNY is a coming-of age story, but it's unlike any other one that I've read. In fact, I think FINNY is a very unique story -- one that I found rather refreshing. The author's writing style is definitely distinct (and I really liked it!); and presentation of the characters' lives is original. It has been a week or so since I've finished the book, and this novel has stayed in my thoughts. I might go so far as to say that I've even grown to appreciate FINNY more now that I've let the book stew around in my mind.

While I really enjoyed FINNY, I have to admit that I'm having a difficult time writing this review. What I found so interesting about this novel is that there isn't one or two specific things that stood out for me -- I just thought everything worked really well. So much of this book is worth mentioning, but I'll try to feature a few of the highlights for me.

Probably the most wonderful thing about this novel was the character of Finny. I just adored her! Finny was an extremely complex character who had her fair share of flaws, but I couldn't help but be drawn into her life. At times, I laughed with her and other times I wanted to wring her neck; however, throughout the entire novel, I rooted for her and desperately wanted to her find some peace and happiness. I especially loved seeing how much she learned and eventually evolved over the twenty years covered in this book.

In addition to Finny, I thought there were many great (and very interesting) characters in this novel. Of course, I liked her love interest Earl; although like Finny, there were times when I wanted to shake him. And, I also loved Earl's father and his wife as well as Finny's brother. However, there was one character in particular that I found extremely interesting -- Finny's best friend Judith. On the outside, she appeared to have it all -- smarts, beauty, wealth, confidence, etc.; but in reality, Judith was a troubled girl (and eventually young woman.) I think what I most appreciated about these supporting characters (and especially Judith) is how they all affected Finny. Through the ups and downs of Finny's relationships, she learned not only a great deal about her family and friends, but also (and more importantly) herself.

Another pleasant surprise for me is that this novel covers about twenty years of a young girl's life, yet it was written by a man. I'm always a little shocked when a man can write about a woman with so much depth and feeling. Finny was a pretty unique child (and eventually young woman), so I think there was a little lee-way for the author in portraying a realistic female character. However, I was extremely impressed with how Mr. Kramon created and portrayed Finny.

I also loved how the author effectively incorporated so much humor into this novel. And much of the humor was out-of-the-ordinary -- from characters with zany traits, to hilarious scenes during sad times in Finny's life, to the general ironies that can occur every day! Finny's life was kind of like a roller coaster ride, but the author managed to keep parts of this novel light with his unique brand of humor. I definitely enjoyed being caught off-guard with how Mr. Kramon used humor in his novel.

FINNY is just a wonderful novel for book clubs to discuss. Not only is it a very entertaining story because of the unique cast of characters, but there are many universal themes would would be interesting to explore. There is a reading guide available for FINNY which delves into some very thought-provoking questions. Some of the topics include growing up, family dynamics, romantic love, friendship, and hope. In addition, Mr. Kramon seems to be a big fan of book clubs and he even offers to meet with groups (either in-person on via Skype.)

If you are looking for a very special book that will entertain you and make you think, then I highly recommend FINNY. It truly is a very unique book!

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of his novel.

14 comments:

Beth F said...

As you could guess from my spotlight on Justin last week, I'm really looking forward to this book. I love Justin's sense of humor.

bermudaonion said...

I'm really looking forward to this one too! It's near the top on my nightstand. I just love coming of age stories that have some humor in them!

Beth Kephart said...

I love the trailer and love your write up!

DCMetroreader said...

I'm going to see if my library had this one as I'd like to read this on my vacay in a few weeks.

heatherlo said...

I'm so excited to read Finny! I actually think it will be the next ARC that I get to, especially after reading your review and another glowing one I just read.

Beth Hoffman said...

The trailer makes me laugh and laugh! I'm eager to read this book.

justinkramon said...

Julie, I really appreciate what you said about the book. Thank you so much for this review.

Candace (of Beth Fish), one of the huge pleasures about publishing FINNY has been finding others with the same twisted sense of humor as myself. Thanks again.

Kathy (of Bermuda Onion), thanks so much! One of the fun things about writing the book was finding the humor in coming-of-age, since I think it doesn't always seem funny at the time.

Beth K, so glad you liked the trailer! A great new company, Hello King Productions, did it for me, and I was so happy with how it captured the book, so I'm glad others are enjoying it.

DC Metro Reader, hope you enjoy the book if you end up reading it. I really appreciate your interest.

Heather, I'm really looking forward to hearing what you think of the book!

Beth H, I hope the book has the same effect for you as the trailer!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love when you wrote, "At times, I laughed with her and other times I wanted to wring her neck" - that shows me the author struck just the right notes in portraying a teenager!

Amy said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. I really enjoy coming-of-age stories and want to read more of them. I am very intrigued about the character Finny, she sounds fascinating. She and her family sound rather eccentric, something I love. I am also often interested in books that star femal characters but are written by men. And "Finny" sounds like one I will enjoy quite a bit.

Thank you for a wonderful review, Julie!
~ Amy

justinkramon said...

rhapsodyinbooks, I'm glad both the lovable and neck-wringing notes struck a chord with you. Thanks for your note.

And Amy, thank you so much for your interest. I really enjoyed writing the book through Finny's eyes -- she let me see familiar things in a new light, and that's what I always love about creating characters and a point of view in a book.

Ben said...

Julie and potential Finny fans,

Anyone who can't wait to make it to the bookstore can read an excerpt at

http://pandeliterary.com/authors/justin-kramon/

enjoy!

Sarah (My World of Books) said...

Great post! This novel sounds incredibly interesting. I am adding to my to-read pile!

Michelle (my books. my life.) said...

I loved Finny (my review posts tomorrow and I want to share it with everyone).

I hadn't seen the book trailer yet. I really like it but I think I only like it because I already read the book. I wonder if it gives too much away...

Heather J. said...

Justin is coming to my book club meeting at the end of August - I'm really excited about it! And hey, if you're up for a visit to MD, you're welcome to join us ... ;)