BOOK REVIEW: ‘Are You Here for What I’m Here for?’ by Brian Booker

are you here book

“Their hotel resembled a pink many-layered cake encrusted on to the side of the hill.”

Now, that is an impressive metaphor. I’ve always quite liked really bizarre metaphors and this book has a few of those to offer. I’d say I’m sorry that the writer in me was blown away by that metaphor, but the truth is, I’m not sorry at all.

‘Are You Here for What I’m Here for?’ is a collection of short stories written by Brian Booker.

In terms of writing, this book has some real high moments. There are images that just really leap from the page, which makes it quite a pleasant read.

However, there are a lot of pacing issues. There seems to be this overriding theme of what I would call detachment from life. What I mean is, there are a lot of characters who are not really invested in the people around them or are just aimlessly wondering through life. This kind of lack of connection with life and the world, makes some of the stories dreary and slow paced. It is like Brian Booker was trying to show us that the character finds life monotonous, but he does such a good job of showing that through his writing, that it backfires on him by being boring to read. Some of the stories also fail to make sense, one even ends in a totally random place.

The best bits of this collection shine through in the diverse cast as characters. It’s so nice to see so much diversity, from people with all sorts of illnesses, to someone in a wheelchair and a blind person. Going by my experiences of people in wheel chairs I know, I think the person in the wheel chair is written relatively realistically. My main issue is with the blind character, as that is unrealistic in a really fundamental way.

Firstly, no one in the story is really sure whether the boy is blind. Now, either the kid can walk around without walking into things or he can’t, he can either read or he can’t. Secondly, while it does say in the story that the blind boy did have sight when he was younger but then lost it, he is able to get around as a sighted person does. For example, it’s described that he goes to the beach on his own one morning. But if this kid’s supposedly lost his sight, that wouldn’t actually be possible. And it’s not even like I can say, well maybe Brian Booker didn’t do enough research, because I feel like that should be obvious. It’s really great to see disability representation in fiction, but can we please have that representation done a little bit more accurately.

The diversity in characters goes a lot further than representing under-represented groups. There is also a good blend of ages, we have children, elderly people, parents and middle aged individuals. I think that is something that is really nice to see encompassed in one collection.

This is a debut collection, so I think I’d definitely be interested to see how he’s developed as a writer, in say five years time, particularly given some of the impressive imagery and diverse characters he uses.

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