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Shampoo Planet

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Tyler Johnson is a 20-year-old MTV child. Once a baby raised in a hippie commune, he is now an ambitious Reagan youth dreaming of a career with the corporation whose offices his mother once firebombed.


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Tyler Johnson is a 20-year-old MTV child. Once a baby raised in a hippie commune, he is now an ambitious Reagan youth dreaming of a career with the corporation whose offices his mother once firebombed.

30 review for Shampoo Planet

  1. 4 out of 5

    RandomAnthony

    I feel like I've already reviewed Shampoo Planet because I've reviewed (I think) three other Coupland books. Don't get me wrong, I like Coupland and I like Shampoo Planet. But the Coupland novels I've read hold at least a few common elements: 1) An articulate, hyper-self aware protagonist. 2) His/her messed up but well-intentioned immediate family. 3) A focus on consumer culture and changing technology. 4) Fear of poverty and crappy jobs. I think I could go on with more c I feel like I've already reviewed Shampoo Planet because I've reviewed (I think) three other Coupland books. Don't get me wrong, I like Coupland and I like Shampoo Planet. But the Coupland novels I've read hold at least a few common elements: 1) An articulate, hyper-self aware protagonist. 2) His/her messed up but well-intentioned immediate family. 3) A focus on consumer culture and changing technology. 4) Fear of poverty and crappy jobs. I think I could go on with more common elements, but I'll stop there. Now, and I want to make this clear, if I'm criticizing Coupland for recycling themes, settings, and characters, he gets a slap on the wrist at most. He's good enough to get away with these small crimes, and it's not like other authors don't navigate the same territory over and over again, anyway. I'm tempted to argue that recurring themes fit well with Coupland's nod to disposable culture, but that might be pushing it. Although the author's books kind of read the same Shampoo Planet is my favorite so far and will probably stick in my memory more than the other three. This novel's ending is much more emotional and surreal than the others'. The varied settings (Paris, L.A., Eastern Washington) keep the storyline and characters moving. If I'm not mistaken Shampoo Planet was Coupland's first post-Generation X (I've not read that one) novel. Assuming he was under pressure to notch another hit, Coupland deserves credit for producing a strong, quick read. His books are perfect for plane rides and summer afternoons. They're thoughtful without requiring intense attention. Coupland writes best paragraph to paragraph, comparing and connecting disparate elements and analogies, seeing more than most observers do in, for example, a depressing, mostly shut down mall. If I were to recommend any Coupland (but remember, I've only read four of his books), I think I'd start with Shampoo Planet. I'm also curious as to why Coupland seems to occupy his own space, if you will, as a writer; he's carved out his own niche better than most, I think, although I've never met anyone who said “My GOD, Doug Coupland is my favorite writer!” I don't believe I've even ever met a huge fan. He's good, though, and perhaps overlooked and pigeonholed because of the Generation X hype. Next summer I'll read another one. And I'll probably remember most of Shampoo Planet, or at least more about it than the other Coupland books I've read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    douglas coupland is depressing as hell. i finished this book a bit ago and since then i have been wrapped in this loop of thought about how my generation has absolutely no prospects and will continue to exist in the stasis of unhappiness until we die. and dying would end up being one of the best parts of our lives. but, then again, i have been trying to figure out whether the moon spins on an axis and around the earth or just around the earth. and, you know, whether or not you walk fa douglas coupland is depressing as hell. i finished this book a bit ago and since then i have been wrapped in this loop of thought about how my generation has absolutely no prospects and will continue to exist in the stasis of unhappiness until we die. and dying would end up being one of the best parts of our lives. but, then again, i have been trying to figure out whether the moon spins on an axis and around the earth or just around the earth. and, you know, whether or not you walk faster if you walk with the rotation of the earth as opposed to against it. so, this is why i like doug coupland. who else would inspire such diversity. i dont know. so, like microserfs this book was certainly dated and in the beginning it was way easier to notice it but after you immerse in this time you kind of forget it. this book reminds me alot of my childhood and that makes it suck more/more awesome.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    This book was fantastic. It perfectly captured the mood and aura of the early 90s. Tyler reminded me of a far less pretentious and whiny and more lovable Holden Caulfield. Anna-Louise reminded me, almost scarily, of myself. Coupland has a way of utilizing small, insidious devices to emphasize a certain attitude; an excellent example of this was the copious use of brand-names, each bearing a trademark symbol. I was fascinated by the way Coupland himself, in writing the novel, was so clearly rooti This book was fantastic. It perfectly captured the mood and aura of the early 90s. Tyler reminded me of a far less pretentious and whiny and more lovable Holden Caulfield. Anna-Louise reminded me, almost scarily, of myself. Coupland has a way of utilizing small, insidious devices to emphasize a certain attitude; an excellent example of this was the copious use of brand-names, each bearing a trademark symbol. I was fascinated by the way Coupland himself, in writing the novel, was so clearly rooting for certain characters, i.e. Anna-Louise over Stephanie. The collision between the older flower-child generation and the so-called "global teens" was palpable, but not hostile. As a reader, I would have liked to see the eating disorders subtopic delved into more deeply--there is scarce mention of what turned Anna-Louise from someone whom "[cannibals] would have... in the pot in two seconds" to "the new superskinny Anna-Louise," other than a vague reference to "The Purge." All in all, though, I can't say enough good things about this book, and I would dare say it's a modern classic.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Trin

    An early Coupland (his second novel), I probably didn't pick the best time to read this as a lot of it deals with money worries. In fact, there's a whole 'Down and Out in L.A.' section and—yeah. Bit close to home, that. I don't know if it's the result of my trying to subconsciously distance myself, but this book didn't reach me as much as some of his others; there were sequences I loved, like the bits about 20-year-old protagonist Tyler's trip to Paris, and his visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery (b An early Coupland (his second novel), I probably didn't pick the best time to read this as a lot of it deals with money worries. In fact, there's a whole 'Down and Out in L.A.' section and—yeah. Bit close to home, that. I don't know if it's the result of my trying to subconsciously distance myself, but this book didn't reach me as much as some of his others; there were sequences I loved, like the bits about 20-year-old protagonist Tyler's trip to Paris, and his visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery (burial place of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison, among others, and a place I visited when I was 17), but I couldn't get into it as much as some of Coupland's other books, even the insane ones. However, as is often the case with Coupland's novels, the closing scene is—almost atypically in relation to the rest of the book—beautiful, serene, and moving.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    I found it very difficult to relate to the protagonist of this, Coupland's second novel. He leaves his dying town in the desert region of Washington State for a summer of rail travel round Europe and cheats on his girlfriend. He returns to Terminaldeclineville (I fail to remember the name Coupland actually uses) and pretends nothing happened. He bemoans the lack of ambition of just about everybody but drops out of college. When Coupland talks about the USA I recognise the place. In th I found it very difficult to relate to the protagonist of this, Coupland's second novel. He leaves his dying town in the desert region of Washington State for a summer of rail travel round Europe and cheats on his girlfriend. He returns to Terminaldeclineville (I fail to remember the name Coupland actually uses) and pretends nothing happened. He bemoans the lack of ambition of just about everybody but drops out of college. When Coupland talks about the USA I recognise the place. In this book he describes a Europe I've never been to, despite living in Brussels. Coupland writes in the first person most of the time but his unique imagery, ubiquitous in his novels, makes this character seem like a clone of one of his other characters that suffered a lot of gene damage and didn't come out as a Asperger's Syndrome experiencing computer geek border-line genius - instead as a hotel manager wannabe! So the protagonist is dull, dim, immoral and drifting through life - then the French Girl arrives. She's so unpleasant even our protagonist doesn't deserve her, but she takes charge of his life, until an unbelievable ending resolves matters. (Think fairy God-mother.) For me this book was a complete failure, which was unexpected - I've read five other Coupland novels and always got something worthwhile out of them.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    This book drove me crazy. The characters were unsympathetic and generally shallow; this may have been the point but it didn't help w/ the book's readability. The metaphors were also painful. For example, "I thought I was going to be permanently warped by loneliness, like a record being scraped by a screwdriver" or "the aura of strained, un-discussable pseudo-cheer near my grandparents, like partying in a house in which the mother has recently died" or "Jasmine's caught KittyWhip fever--like a pl This book drove me crazy. The characters were unsympathetic and generally shallow; this may have been the point but it didn't help w/ the book's readability. The metaphors were also painful. For example, "I thought I was going to be permanently warped by loneliness, like a record being scraped by a screwdriver" or "the aura of strained, un-discussable pseudo-cheer near my grandparents, like partying in a house in which the mother has recently died" or "Jasmine's caught KittyWhip fever--like a plague sweeping a medieval walled town--you never know who'll be the next to go." Warping does not equal scraping. And wait...why would you party in a house where someone had died? And fever doesn't equal plague; and plagues are not often random in its scope. Grrrr. It was saved from one star by the fact that Coupland has a larger message (that he unsuccessfully communicated due to distractions like the above) and by the world's best letter from a mom to a young man. The book is set in a not-uncommon landscape: Lancaster's biggest corporation has failed/closed unexpectedly, and those who worked there are out of jobs. The rest of the town folk who relied on those employees spending money shopping, etc, are now also struggling. The corporation made secret and dangerous items for the feds; they had poor waste disposal practices, and the town now has the fun task of dealing w/ dangerous buried remnants. So, without high paying scientific jobs available to the youth, what does the future look like? What makes people happy? What are the common goals of the society? Our protagonist Tyler is a bright kid. After his mom escaped from a hippie commune, he was raised in a positive environment lacking male role models (see opening sentence). He is ambitious - he wants to follow all the rules of the American dream in order to lead a comfortable, consumer lifestyle with good hair. Looks are important to Tyler and having nice things is important to Tyler but he is still a good person. Ironically he judges most harshly those he is most trying to become - Dan and his grandfather. This is a coming-of-age story where the protagonist is a little older than the normal teenager; maybe this is another difference in our modern world of privilege. Tyler is never hungry or unsafe or challenged by diversity. He has solidly first world problems. The metaphor of hair is clever; in "Shampoo Planet" hair matters. Hair is a statement of intent and personality, almost like a calling card. It might be one of the few things folks have complete control over: the choices made to one's hair are a life choice - dreadlocks vs pixie cut vs full body waves - as Tyler states, one could become famous at any time; at that point one's history would become public knowledge and one's hair is an integral part of that. The subtext is also masculinity; Dan associates Tyler's hair w/ a shallow character - the traditional (and dying?) masculine's commentary on the new youth culture?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Wilson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was forced on me back in my grade eleven English class. I remain bitter about having had to suffer through it to this day. Tyler is a completely unsympathetic protagonist, and his treatment of Anna-Louise makes it even more alarming that she even considers him worthy of her time. Her complete transformation from a free spirited hippie type to what she perceives as Tyler's ideal woman (thin and spandex wearing, apparently) simply to please Tyler infuriated me. Anna-Louise was my favouri This book was forced on me back in my grade eleven English class. I remain bitter about having had to suffer through it to this day. Tyler is a completely unsympathetic protagonist, and his treatment of Anna-Louise makes it even more alarming that she even considers him worthy of her time. Her complete transformation from a free spirited hippie type to what she perceives as Tyler's ideal woman (thin and spandex wearing, apparently) simply to please Tyler infuriated me. Anna-Louise was my favourite character, but Coupland felt the need to diminish her independence and make her completely give up her unique personality for the sake of the man in her life. This alone would have made me drop the book down a star, but since I was already hating the reading experience, this just solidified the one-star ranking in my mind.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    This Coupland book was like comfort food for me. Others have commented on his writing, and I have to agree that there are some excellent passages in the book--there were several chunks that I had to read aloud to my wife because I enjoyed them so much. Really, though, I enjoyed the growth and interaction of characters most. I appreciate the way he blends the sort of hyper-consumerism of his characters with personality traits to make them likable hypocrites. Flawed, but not hated. You This Coupland book was like comfort food for me. Others have commented on his writing, and I have to agree that there are some excellent passages in the book--there were several chunks that I had to read aloud to my wife because I enjoyed them so much. Really, though, I enjoyed the growth and interaction of characters most. I appreciate the way he blends the sort of hyper-consumerism of his characters with personality traits to make them likable hypocrites. Flawed, but not hated. You get the same detached lack of emotion you'd find in a Bret Easton Ellis book, but the added connections between characters, especially where he shows them caring for one another, adds reality. Coupland doesn't judge his characters, he doesn't make them evil. I am most impressed with his ability to make them human.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Luis

    Boring to me. Probably because: 1) I do not like the voice of Tyler. He just bored me. 2) Weak insights. Weak weak insights. The book is like this: blah blah blah blah blah weak insight. Blah blah blah blah blah another weak insight. 3) The issues, characters, and culture probably are too old for me. I was just not immersed into the mood and theme of the book. I was really not happy. I expected the same power as what I experienced in Hey Nostradamus!. And the fact that I bought a ph Boring to me. Probably because: 1) I do not like the voice of Tyler. He just bored me. 2) Weak insights. Weak weak insights. The book is like this: blah blah blah blah blah weak insight. Blah blah blah blah blah another weak insight. 3) The issues, characters, and culture probably are too old for me. I was just not immersed into the mood and theme of the book. I was really not happy. I expected the same power as what I experienced in Hey Nostradamus!. And the fact that I bought a physical copy of this and not Hey Nostradamus didn't help. Always this irony. My not being able to buy the physical copy and then loving the ebook; buying the physical copy and afterwards regretting and thinking that I should just have stuck with the ebook.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Lewis

    The worst self-consciously Gen-X drivel. Perhaps the emphasis on consumerism is supposed to be post modern or ironic or something, but this book just comes off as hollow and without any redeeming qualities. This is a case where I strongly believe the book is shitty because the author is a shitty human being. Because he himself is not deep or humane, he cannot write complex, believable, likeable characters. The end of the book is especially off-putting, as the protagonist has learned absolutely n The worst self-consciously Gen-X drivel. Perhaps the emphasis on consumerism is supposed to be post modern or ironic or something, but this book just comes off as hollow and without any redeeming qualities. This is a case where I strongly believe the book is shitty because the author is a shitty human being. Because he himself is not deep or humane, he cannot write complex, believable, likeable characters. The end of the book is especially off-putting, as the protagonist has learned absolutely nothing and only now values his girlfriend after she's lost weight and turned herself into a shiny consumer object.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rayroy

    One of my favorites, I don't want to tell you what it's about. It's Built to Spill good, Paris, Texas good

  12. 5 out of 5

    Meika

    I heard about this book in high school and every once in a while I think about it in the context of Gen-X stuff, so I picked it up when I saw it at a used bookstore. The characters are archetypes, and they live typical lives. It's set in a landscape that's familiar and idealistic in terms of how well it captures a typical experience. This reads as a cynical, cog-in-the-machine worldview. I felt a little bit disconnected from the characters, and it felt like Coupland was telling a story with the I heard about this book in high school and every once in a while I think about it in the context of Gen-X stuff, so I picked it up when I saw it at a used bookstore. The characters are archetypes, and they live typical lives. It's set in a landscape that's familiar and idealistic in terms of how well it captures a typical experience. This reads as a cynical, cog-in-the-machine worldview. I felt a little bit disconnected from the characters, and it felt like Coupland was telling a story with the intention to accomplish a novel. It's self-reflective of this whole generational malaise, and it felt heavy-handed. There were nuggets of greatness. (view spoiler)[Even though she was an antagonistic force in Tyler's life, I thought Stephanie was a catalyst for Tyler's growth. Even though she's presented as a sort of "phase he has to go through" there are moments where she's the most real character in the whole cast. Her statements on class and pleasure during the break-up dinner struck a chord with me, maybe because I have my own memories of a foreign exchange student from France, whose insistence on pleasure in everything from bath products to hiking rocked the boat I was trying to hold steady. I really hope she didn't get kidnapped by human traffickers in the end, but those guys she was with and the stuff she was saying about passion and her mother... ugh. (hide spoiler)] It was interesting to look back at Silicon Valley before the silicon became so ubiquitous that the rest of California died under its weight. I've been to San Francisco a few times in the past couple months, and it's not magical the way it was in the 90s. The world is changing and Tyler's obsession with "modern" looks naive from here. I guess that's not a fault of the book - it's just a snapshot and it reflects the times it captured well.

  13. 5 out of 5

    1.1

    Starts like ketchup out of a glass bottle, but it's pretty good stuff and almost adorably quaint. As you continue to read you find parts you hate, parts you love, and parts that transport you. None of the characters are in themselves that interesting, nor many of the situations, but taken all-in-all and mixed together there's certainly something going on. Fever dream consumerism and alternative lifestyles, the two obsessions of the era, figure heavily in the bildungsromanesque plot. If you were aware a Starts like ketchup out of a glass bottle, but it's pretty good stuff and almost adorably quaint. As you continue to read you find parts you hate, parts you love, and parts that transport you. None of the characters are in themselves that interesting, nor many of the situations, but taken all-in-all and mixed together there's certainly something going on. Fever dream consumerism and alternative lifestyles, the two obsessions of the era, figure heavily in the bildungsromanesque plot. If you were aware and alive in the 90s this book will take you back. The protagonist is a bastard through and through who kind of redeems himself, but only after a huge FrenchBabe® adventure. The resulting self-immolation of this ex-girlfriend from GeniuneWoman® into 90sFitnessHardbody® is written in quickly like an astoundingly incisive afterthought. There's glimmers like that throughout the book and some groan-worthy, über-savvy, multisyllabic hipness—this book came out just shortly before the rise of grunge. You can almost see the fluorescent teal windbreakers again. There's a real sense of nostalgia, and not just for the Gen-X-kid audience (I was attending kindergarten when this book was released). Real DougCoupFic®, I guess, though it's the first of his books I've ever read since they were fully out of fashion when I was studying literature and from an era I rarely choose from. If anything this was reminiscent of that much-beloved Brett Easton Ellis classic everyone hates now, but far milder, the satire cut out (?), and without the transgression.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chloe

    'Shampoo Planet' is generally unlikeable. The protagonist, Tyler, is annoyingly priveledged: Terrified of poverty/Obsessed with the word 'modern'/Pessimistic perspective, this is what bothered me most about Tyler. The rest of the characters were pretty well-written*, but the writing bothered me. It was much too vague, and sometimes I didn't know what the fuck was going on due to this book sounding like a collage of inside jokes and word barf. I felt like I may as well be reading a la 'Shampoo Planet' is generally unlikeable. The protagonist, Tyler, is annoyingly priveledged: Terrified of poverty/Obsessed with the word 'modern'/Pessimistic perspective, this is what bothered me most about Tyler. The rest of the characters were pretty well-written*, but the writing bothered me. It was much too vague, and sometimes I didn't know what the fuck was going on due to this book sounding like a collage of inside jokes and word barf. I felt like I may as well be reading a language I only know about 60% of. Despite all this, I enjoyed the plot, and that's what matters most. I liked Anna-Louise the best. *Stephanie felt lazily written, though, like a stereotype. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone I know personally, but if you're into realistic fiction that will make you nervous here and there, you may like this book, but I also wouldn't be surprised if you got too bored to keep reading it...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Fischwife

    I struggled to stick with this one, a bit. It seemed very disjointed to me at first, and I had difficulty remembering who the characters were. There are some wonderful turns of phrase in this book, though, and these kept me reading to see what else Coupland would come up with. A couple of examples are "..we ordered orange juice in an extremely Marge roadside diner," [Chapter 49] and "...San Francisco and wooden houses painted the color of children's thoughts [Chapter 48]." I struggled to stick with this one, a bit. It seemed very disjointed to me at first, and I had difficulty remembering who the characters were. There are some wonderful turns of phrase in this book, though, and these kept me reading to see what else Coupland would come up with. A couple of examples are "..we ordered orange juice in an extremely Marge roadside diner," [Chapter 49] and "...San Francisco and wooden houses painted the color of children's thoughts [Chapter 48]."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul Dinger

    This was a readable version of the hero's journey. The hero here is Tyler Johnson who wants to work at Bechdal, a mysterious company that makes chemicals. He drifts all over CA with a French girlfriend, even meets up with his hippie burned out dad and saves his hippie mom from domestic violence. This book is well written in that it keeps your interest and does create good characters. It builds on a lot of similar ideas from generation X, even quoting it on occasion.

  17. 5 out of 5

    christopher cole

    I love DC. but for some reason this early novel had passed me by, never got around to reading it. I found it interesting having read his later novels as they are better and it shows how he has improved his craft.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Colton

    This should have been right down my alley, but the story constantly feels like its digressing into itself and feels claustrophobic inside this one guy's head. I also didn't like the main character and didn't care what he achieved, though his relationship with Anne-Louise was nice. The other wacky characters were a lot of fun.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Clare Walker

    4.5. Read in one sitting, couldn’t put it down. A perfect mix of chuck palahniuk and Brett Easton-Ellis with a hint of nostalgia. Love it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anders Tempelman

    Such a disappointment from an author that has written so many great things.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This story is kind of sad, and the protagonist is kind of a bad person but I still felt bad for him in the end. I liked how the story accurately depicted Los Angeles as the shithole that it is.

  22. 4 out of 5

    René

    Did I read this? I'm pretty sure I did.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bookshark

    Amusing but not memorable

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gerard

    Sorry, couldn't finish it. Too irrelevant? Outdated?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Condit

    Early Coupland. He has largely found his voice, but not his big ideas. About loneliness instead of death. Superficially funny/clever, in a sophomorish way. Skippable.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    Not my favorite Coupland but I'm a completist.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alison Smith

    Snarky and funny. I'm a Coupland fan. see http://thebooksmithblog.wordpress.com

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brandy

    So, I'd heard of Coupland for years, of course. In fact, this book may have made my reading list way back when I was working in the downtown Oakland Waldenbooks around the time the book originally came out. Some things take longer than others to get to. Coupland, the disaffected young writer who was supposed to be a voice for my generation. Or, well, for people slightly older than me. Or maybe I came in on the edge of Generation X (which will be another topic for another time). Coupla So, I'd heard of Coupland for years, of course. In fact, this book may have made my reading list way back when I was working in the downtown Oakland Waldenbooks around the time the book originally came out. Some things take longer than others to get to. Coupland, the disaffected young writer who was supposed to be a voice for my generation. Or, well, for people slightly older than me. Or maybe I came in on the edge of Generation X (which will be another topic for another time). Coupland, who introduced the ironic age we live in now, or so the media would have us believe...Oh, wait. No. THOSE people, the ones who drip irony from their too-tight jeans as they walk down the street, are actually younger than me. They're even younger than Generation Y, the group of people represented in this novel, folks who want it all and get nothing. I belong in no one group. This is, naturally, why there's something in Coupland's work which resonates with me. I know, I know: everyone should start with Generation X. I didn't. I started here, and I actually like this novel better (even though Wikipedia says Coupland himself finds it contrived). In a rather strange way, it's mostly forgettable--but it's forgettable without exactly being forgettable, if you know what I mean. Of course you do. And you don't. The book is populated with what I gather are the typical Coupland young adults--those who are working jobs well below their abilities and possibly their training; who are too introspective and smart and insightful for their own good; who used to have dreams and goals that were socially acceptable, but who have dropped these as unattainable empty promises and embraced smaller, more symbolic achievements. These are American children who are left to find a new way to rebel after their parents fought the culture wars of the 60s and 70s--the culture wars no one is quite sure who won. And, of course, Coupland wrote these characters in the wake of the plasticine 1980s, which means there is the lingering obsession with that old American Dream of wealth and status even as the realization dawns that such an obsession is mostly based on lies. This sounds a little bleak, and it is. But it's a soft and possibly uniquely American kind of bleak, where repression is still lit with privilege and a small bit of whimsy. A lot has been made of how Coupland's youths are aimless, but I think in this novel in articular the main character is actually searching for quite a lot. The sensation of being lost comes naturally when a person must name for themselves what it is they're ultimately looking for, beyond any cultural mythos which has been handed down to them, beyond the goals other adults set for them early in their lives. The main character here, Tyler, has dreams of working for the defense corporation Bechtel, but he watches as this goal slips further and further away. The symbolism is obvious. Furthermore, he's the son of an ex-hippie, and the grandson of a wealthy couple who live in an RV and travel the American roads. So here's this kid: traditionally ambitious, but unable to ever really move forward. He's sold to living within the framework of the American Dream, but is insightful enough to almost understand that it's a hollow goal for people of his time. And the most resonant part of the book for me--the part that is perfectly pitched and perhaps a little contrived and the moment of clarity which puts all of Tyler's longings and disappointments into perspective, the scene which I find oddly missing from other reviews I've read of the book--is this: after many personal and professional missteps, Tyler finally has the chance to take his girlfriend on the road trip he's been dreaming of for years. They drive and drive, revisit the commune of Tyler's very early childhood, and head for a forest he remembers visiting when he was younger, this place which rests in Tyler's childhood memory like some Sylvan Eden. When they arrive, there is nothing left but a clear cut ruin. Maybe it's because I live in the land of clear cutting. Maybe it's because I'm fascinated by the debate over whether the American Dream is still attainable, or even still exists. Maybe it's because I've taken a summer job as a retail cashier in a business where three out of every four people I meet has a graduate degree, and I'm pretty certain no one makes a real living wage. But whatever the reason, that devastating image stays with me, and I fully understand why Tyler fell apart on the roadside upon seeing that wide swath of ragged stumps. I would have a lot more to say on the subject, but it's time to go get ready for work.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    3.5 stars I think Tyler says it best in the line: 'I think there's some insight I've just plain missed.' While the writing was brilliant, and the characters were well-developed and likable in their way, there was just something missing. The book seemed to start nowhere in particular and end nowhere in particular, with little of note in between. While I don't need much of a plot to enjoy a book, I'm not sure there was much character development either, just a few disparate mo 3.5 stars I think Tyler says it best in the line: 'I think there's some insight I've just plain missed.' While the writing was brilliant, and the characters were well-developed and likable in their way, there was just something missing. The book seemed to start nowhere in particular and end nowhere in particular, with little of note in between. While I don't need much of a plot to enjoy a book, I'm not sure there was much character development either, just a few disparate moves and decisions on the protagonist's part. And I'm still not sure if that's the point?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Flint

    Six word book review: Interrupting the manufactured life of youth.

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