REVIEW: How You Ruined My Life by Jeff Strand
A new hilarious novel from the author of The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever and Stranger Things Have Happened.
Rod’s life doesn’t suck. If you ask him, it’s pretty awesome. He may not be popular, but he and his best friends play in a band that has a standing gig. Yeah, it’s Monday night and they don’t get paid, but they can turn the volume up as loud as they want. And Rod’s girlfriend is hot, smart, and believes in their band—believes in Rod. Aside from a winning lottery ticket, what more could he ask for?
Answer: A different cousin. When Rod’s scheming, two-faced cousin Blake moves in for the semester, Rod tries to keep calm. Blake seems to have everyone else fooled withgood manners and suave smile, except Rod knows better. Blake is taking over his room, taking over his band, taking over his life! But Rod’s not about to give up without a fight. Game on. May the best prankster win.
Dear Mr. Strand,
It’s because you write humorous, slightly wacky novels about young adults that I enjoy your stories.Past ones have worked well for me. I liked the idea for this one but it seemed to run out of plot before it ran out of pages.
Rod is less than thrilled when his mom announces that his cousin Blake, whom Rod remembers as being spoiled, will be living with them for three months while Blake’s wealthy parents take a luxury cruise. The situation isn’t helped when a U-Haul worth of boxes arrives at their house from Blake – which Rod and his band-mates have to haul into Rod’s garage – or when Blake arrives with enough luggage to fill a 737. Okay, kidding on that last part but not by much. Blake’s attitude promises trouble and Rod quickly realizes that the next three months are going to be hell.
Yeah, Blake soon starts to show his colors but so subtly that only Rod can really see what he’s doing – which is trying to ruin Rod’s life. Rod’s reactions to Blake’s manipulations begin to make Rod seem like the paranoid one and while not everyone is fooled by Blake’s actions, enough are or are doubtful of Rod’s accusations, that Rod feels his life spinning out of control. Is Blake truly trying to ruin Rod’s life or will Rod’s reactions do that for him?
I like how these characters are grounded in reality even though they’re given some exaggerations for comic effect. Rod is an every day sixteen year old in school, with an old car, a girlfriend and in a band. Like most high school bands, it’s a bad one but Rod and his friends have fun and even have a standing gig and merch table that Rod’s smart girlfriend (wo)mans during the performances. He and his mom live in a small house and she works two jobs but they get along. Then Blake appears.
Blake’s actions could either be totally innocent or underhanded attempts to wreck havoc. There’s enough possibility that Rod is imagining things to keep the plot going for a while as we travel through two weeks of Rod’s life in high school, singing at the awful dive each Monday and going to classes. He sounds like a high school teenager and acts like one. But after a while, the use of Rod’s style of narrative with parenthetic diversions and repetitions began to wear on me. It was only funny the first time.
Then when the show down occurs and Blake answers Rod’s questions, the time line of the story didn’t match what Blake tells Rod. Plus the resolution was too convenient. I like that everything isn’t magically restored to the beginning of the book and that Rod and his friends will need to reconfigure their relationships to account for what has happened but I think this is a book that really is geared towards young adults and there’s just not enough for adults to enjoy. C+