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Don't Be Afraid of the Dork

Covered in dog hair, Obsessed with books, Wondering what it's all about. I suspect the answer is ice cream and the ocean.

It's Awesome When the Title Works as the Review!

Shine Shine Shine - Lydia Netzer

Original Publication Year: 2012

Genre(s): Fiction

Series: NA

Awards: None

Format: Audio (CDs from Library)

Narrated by: Joshilyn Jackson


Sunny Mann is having a spectacularly bad week.  Her mother is dying, she’s nine months pregnant and her husband has just left on a mission to the moon where he will build robots that in turn will build a lunar colony.  To make matters worse, a car accident reveals that her perfectly coiffed suburban housewife persona is a lie when her blonde wig flies off and she is revealed to have no hair at all.  No eyebrows, no eyelashes, no nothing.  Her life is unraveling or is it simply just becoming more truthful? 


I think Lydia Netzer’s books are the type that you either connect with or you don’t.  I do connect in a crazy intense way, despite the fact that I don’t usually love quirky.  If there is one word to superficially describe this book it is quirky.  It works for me, because she’s using quirkiness a bit like meaningful science fiction uses its “otherness” to reveal truths.  Netzer uses the quirkiness to have fun (and it is absurdly and delightfully funny in places) but also to explore some truths of the universe without letting things get too heavy.  It works for me.  Really well. 


The big message of the book seems to be that we’re all freaks and that trying to fit our non-cookie selves into a cookie cutter life will only hurt everyone.  The book bounces back in forth in time spending time in Maxon and Sunny’s unconventional childhood and elucidating how they have come to be living the hyper conventional life of the present day.  It then deconstructs this life. 


In many ways, the book is also a romance.  Sunny is confident and good with people, accepting and comfortable with her differences until it comes time to be a mother.  The neighbor boy Maxon Mann is brilliant beyond belief but unable to really connect with or act normal around other people. He thinks in mathematical equations and sees himself and all humans as sophisticated robots with three key differences:


“There are three things that robots cannot do," wrote Maxon. Then beneath that on the page he wrote three dots, indented. Beside the first dot he wrote "Show preference without reason (LOVE)" and then "Doubt rational decisions (REGRET)" and finally "Trust data from a previously unreliable source (FORGIVE).”


Maxon believes he can design robots that will even erase these differences. He believes this is in part because HE can do them, especially when it comes to Sunny whom he loves almost from the moment they meet.  Netzer is amazingly good at imagining two utterly unique souls that are absolutely perfect for one another and how they might fit together. 


It wasn’t perfect and perhaps my biggest complaint is that the ending was overdone.


The narrator is the same as How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky and as with that book she takes a little getting used but once you do she’s pretty perfect. 


FINAL VERDICT: A mix of meaningful, funny and unusual that really works for me.  I am officially a Lydia Netzer fan and will read anything that she produces.