If you are looking for something smart and fast, you would be hard pressed to find a better book than Calvin. This is a gem of a book that will appeal to readers who like viewing life through a different lens. Mental illness isn’t a joke, but this lighter look at Schizophrenia offers an approachable and insightful view that is surprisingly engaging and pretty heartfelt, too.
In this latest novel from National Book Award finalist Martine Leavitt, a schizophrenic teen believes that Bill Watterson can save him from his illness if he creates one more Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.
Seventeen-year-old Calvin has always known his fate is linked to the comic book character from Calvin & Hobbes. He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even has a best friend named Susie. As a child Calvin played with the toy Hobbes, controlling his every word and action, until Hobbes was washed to death. But now Calvin is a teenager who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Hobbes is back—as a delusion—and Calvin can’t control him. Calvin decides that if he can convince Bill Watterson to draw one final comic strip, showing a normal teenaged Calvin, he will be cured. Calvin and Susie (and Hobbes) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track him down.
This was a pretty engaging little book. I always enjoy a good quest, and it was certainly a rather surreal quest. A lot of the time I was left wondering what was real and what was delusion as much as Calvin was, so I certainly needed to know how this was going to turn out. I read it in a little over an hour because it was formatted more like a play in terms of dialogue, and that was essential because it really kept all of the voices straight in both Calvin’s and my head. I enjoyed the sweet but real feel of the romance between Calvin and Susie. Sometimes love really is just about “getting” someone in a way no one else does. I liked the positive spin this puts on schizophrenia. Don’t get me wrong, it is still clearly dangerous because Susie lets Calvin determine her reality to some degree, but this book still puts a humorous slant on the situation, which allows readers to laugh and still empathize with it. I do have to say that Calvin had some pretty deep thoughts about life, God, and humanity near the end, but if readers aren’t into pondering transcendentalism or whatever, they can skim past those and pick back up with little trouble. This book is pretty creative, and creative minds will probably enjoy it the most. I think fans of things like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or the original short story version of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” will really enjoy this, but the presence of Susie does leave a voice for the more sensible reader to connect with. I do want to say that I have little knowledge of the Calvin and Hobbes comics, but that didn’t really impact my enjoyment or ability to understand the themes or the plot. I thought this was a quirky and fun read, and I think it would appeal to my high school readers, particularly those who want a little depth but don’t want to invest a huge chunk of time. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+, but interest level is high school and beyond.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.