Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Review: The Hello Arithmetic - Mylo Reyes

Extent: 196 pages
Publisher: Self Published
Pub Date: 15 July 2011
Available in print or download from Lulu

Social-derelict Sprig Audley has graduated junior high school at St. Eustachius, and will be moving into his freshmen year of high school, sans the junior, at Glen West High. Sprung onto a social cartel that had no idea he ever existed, Sprig will have to deal with the caustic chore of attending high school, be it in the paradoxes of the female gender, finding the best piece of real-estate in the lunch room, or even accidentally beating the hell out of the schools toughest bullies and unleashing the worlds greatest senior prank. Follow Sprig's story in the funny, adventurous, and painfully awkward novel, The Hello Arithmetic

As I read The Hello Arithmetic, I was actually – worryingly – reminded of myself when I hit the UK equivalent of high school. Just like Sprig, I was awkward, socially unpractised, unpopular, didn’t know where to put myself at lunch because I had next to no friends… Unlike Sprig, however, I didn’t have a survival kit that included a quick wit and a wonderfully ironic outlook on life. And this is what I just couldn’t get enough of in this book. Mylo Reyes has created exactly the kind of voice in Sprig that I long to find in a young adult read; he has balanced perfectly the kind of self-conscious and paranoid inner monologue of a teen that hears people silently making fun of him at the bus stop with an outrageously original wit that relentlessly hits back at the torments of teen life. It really wasn’t long before I started giggling along to this book and not because it’s silly but because it is genuinely clever, displaying the kind of dry wit we all wish we could conjure up in moments of despair.

The writing is just superb, Mylo shows off a real creative intelligence not only in his humour but in his ability to crack out new words which, by the way, is my all time favourite writing trick. When I see words like “Shakespearince” and “leaf-bundent” my intellect flutters. I think, however, the pinnacle of Mylo’s writing prowess shines through in occasional paragraphs where a game of table tennis wit was played out. The world hits Sprig with something dull or frustrating but in the same breath he strikes back with a play on words or a clever sarcastic comment that seems so unforced you wonder if Mylo really meant it to happen. Of course he did, these paragraphs demonstrate an unparalleled skill in humorous symmetry. It got to the point where I panicked if I thought I hadn’t paid attention to a paragraph as I could have missed something!

Right after that I checked in to English just in time for Ms. Mabson to provide us an in-class free form writing assignment. She told us that we could write about anything we wanted but had to fill up a paragraph or two and it had to make sense. Sounded simple enough, so I thought it would be a good idea to take an in-class sabbatical and reflect for a bit.  [p.65]

The Hello Arithmetic has the feel of a fictional auto-biography as there is such a high level of detail that just has to come from memory. It’s almost like a candid documentary with a camera following Sprig through his first days of high school and a microphone wired into his brain. It’s not just a made up story, it’s a genuine insight wrapped up in splendid irony and dry wit. It’s a couple of weeks in the life of a nerdy teen who on the one hand rants at the injustices and trivialities of high school life but on the other is desperately trying to find a way to fit in somewhere and make friends. A hopeless task, it would seem, when his best chat-up line is “the DOW/JONES is rising”.

Check out Mylo's website here.

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