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“The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To” Book Review

Photo: Vintage Books

Photo: Vintage Books

I’m not sure how I learned who DC Pierson is. I think the first time I saw him was on Community, where he played one of those background students we never learn anything about (and I’m pretty sure never speaks).

I guess, since he was on Community, I just assumed he was hilarious, so when I found out he was a writer on top of being a comic, I knew I had to read some of his stuff.

That was the story of how I got my hands on The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To. Phew, was that long-winded or what?

Pierson’s tale (which is indeed funny, in a cringe-worthy, “Dear god, I hope I was never like that!” kind of way) begins in a high school classroom, narrated by average but slightly geeky Darren. He’s doodling, and Eric, a full-on nerd, asks him what he’s drawing. Darren proceeds to explain that he’s created an entire sci-fi franchise in his head.

For most of the book, we see Eric and Darren becoming best friends, dealing with average high school issues – like gossip and girl problems – and fleshing out Darren’s made up universe with drawings, soundtrack lists, and never-ending movie titles (no actual writing, naturally).

Just when you think the title on the cover must have been a typo, Eric reveals the truth: He, uh… can’t sleep and never had to. At this point, you think that the story is going to shift and become more adventurous. Well, it doesn’t – it just continues on its merry, “typical high school experience” way, with a few scenes of Darren testing Eric’s abilities with various depressive drugs.

That’s the big problem with this book. Okay, I’m not sure I can actually call it a problem, since the very slow build is obviously intentional. The author chose to have these characters go through high school almost completely average, except for one slightly fantastical variation.

I guess the thing about it is that the story is stuck in between two very different plots. It could have been a tale of boys in high school and their day-to-day struggles, or it could have been the mutant and/or alien problems faced by two best friends who are incredibly out of their depth.

The middle ground isn’t so great. While that day-to-day stuff is handled well, it makes the sleeping issue seem poorly executed. In reality, it comes off like this: Pierson wanted to tell a story about two guys in high school, but tacked on a fantasy plot to hook publishers and then didn’t try to deal with it properly.

By just sort of leaving what is supposedly the main plot of the book chugging along in the background, the audience is treated to an anticlimax with almost zero proper buildup, and a tragic ending that comes way out of left field.

Overall, I believe if Pierson had chosen to focus solely on what he obviously wanted to focus on – high school, and high school alone – then his first effort would have come off a whole lot better.

three stars