I feel like I am turning into a book curmudgeon – I haven’t really loved that many books lately. Unfortunately, I was kind of underwhelmed by this one as well. It’s about Will Miller, a boy growing up in the 70s in Southern California. (The story follows him through to his mid-twenties, with a short postcript at the end that presumably takes place at the present.) Will grows up with his bodybuilder father and younger twin brothers after his mother dies of cancer. After a few years, his father remarries, to a woman with a daughter, Lulu, who is a bit older than Will. The two are inseparable for many years, with Will basically idolizing his stepsister, until she goes away to cheerleading camp and returns a changed person. She is distant and cold to him, which leaves him lost and devastated.
The book is about Will’s futile attempts to get over Lulu (for by the time she abandons him their friendship has turned into unrequited love on his end), and his obsession with her throughout his young adult years. Will also moves out of his father’s house, goes to community college, gets some marginally satisfying jobs, and doesn’t meet any other women. He does stay in touch, sporadically, with Lulu, and has some interludes with her at different times with mostly disastrous results. At the end, a secret is revealed which explains her change of heart toward him many years earlier.
I didn’t love this book. Here are some possible reasons:
- At the risk of sounding immodest, I am a relatively stable person, and I lose patience with and cannot really relate to mentally unstable characters – particularly women – in books. (I am reminded of both Monica and Bits in Who By Fire – reviewed here.) I also get kind of annoyed when men are drawn in by said instability. Lulu falls into the category of unstable women.
- It’s kind of a guy book. There was a pickup basketball game described in great detail, for example, which I completely skipped.
- Some of the supporting characters were depressing and kind of unconvincing, though I think they were intended to be quirky and gems-in-the-rough.
- In the end, I couldn’t really understand Will’s obsession with Lulu. I get that he was rebuffed by his best friend – one whom he was in love with – at a very vulnerable age, and that this clearly devastated his confidence in himself. But I just wanted to shake Will and say, “MOVE ON. There’s a whole world out there worth living.”
Jonathan Evison is a good writer. All About Lulu has a nice mix of humor, wry observation and sadness in it, and I’d like to read other books by him, to give him another chance. But this wasn’t the book for me.
For some more positive reviews (and they abound) about All About Lulu, check out: