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Title & Author: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas
Genre: Young Adult (YA), Novel, Fiction
Synopsis (from Amazon):
Steve details his descent from bright star to burnout in this newly repackaged edition of the definitive, highly acclaimed novel from the creator of “Veronica Mars” and “Party Down”.
Houston, sophomore year: Steve is on top of the world. He and his friends are the talk of the school. He’s in love with a terrific girl. He can even deal with “the astronaut”—a world-famous hero who happens to be his father.
San Diego, senior year: Steve is bummed out, drugged out, flunking out. A no-nonsense counselor says he can graduate if he writes a 100-page paper. So Steve starts writing, and as the paper becomes more and more personal, he reveals how a National Merit Scholar has become an under-achieving stoner. And in telling how he got to where he is, Steve discovers how to get to where he wants to be.
First thing’s first: this book is not about God or religion in any sense. The “God” of the title is an acronym – GOD – which stands for “Grace Order of Dadaists”. Grace is the name of the main character’s high school and Dadaism was an art movement that produced works with zero meaning. GOD was a student club at the high school. In their yearbook photo, the students in the club each signed a different letter which spelled “Dog Was Star” in sign language, or “Rats Saw God” in reverse.
*Whew* Now that that’s out of the way…
Rats Saw God opens with a high [on pot, not life] Steve being sent to counselor Jeff DeMouy’s office by a teacher. DeMouy doesn’t question Steve on why he’s high, though he does bring up all the drug-related offenses that Steve has racked up throughout the semester. What DeMouy is curious about is how the stoner who sits before him could possibly be a National Merit Finalist. Steve is barely making C’s in most classes after a perfect 4.0 through his first two and a half years of high school. Steve is also one English credit short of being able to graduate at the end of year. This is when DeMouy devises the 100-page paper project. While initially adamant that he won’t write the paper, Steve gets into it rather quickly.
RSG goes back and forth between “present day” (which is actually 1996ish), mostly spent in San Diego during Steve’s senior year of high school, and his time in the Houston suburbs during his sophomore and junior years. In Houston, Steve lives with his father, “the astronaut”; his mother and sister now reside in San Diego. Time is fluid in the book, moving back and forth and revealing what happened in Houston one chapter at a time. The past tense portions are Steve’s 100-page paper for DeMouy.
Early on, the reader discovers that something happened between Steve and a person named “Dub” in Houston. Whatever occurred between the two spurred Steve to leave Texas (and his father) at the end of his junior year to live with his mother. The story between the two characters unfolds slowly since half of the book is spent in present day, where Steve is Dub-less. Just when I thought I had the whole story figured out – WHAM! – Rob Thomas threw me a curve ball.
Since I’m a huge “Veronica Mars” fan, I had no doubt that I would enjoy RSG as well. Steve reminds me of Veronica in some ways – witty comebacks, parents who’ve split up – but he’s definitely not a male version of her. Rats Saw God is a fantastic coming of age story with some quirky characters: it conveys the huge ups and downs encountered by teenagers but doesn’t feel the need to paint everything in a pretty hue. The characters felt real – Steve really matured throughout the story – and I was surprised and a bit touched by the ending.
Verdict: Definitely an enjoyable read! While I love Veronica, I feel like there might be more depth in Rats Saw God. I felt that it was the perfect length to convey all the ups and downs at that point in Steve’s life. More could be written but more doesn’t need to be, whereas Veronica is going to continue forever. [Right? RIGHT?!]
Recommended for: fans of Thomas’ other works (“Veronica Mars” and “Party Down”) or anyone looking for a good coming of age story with a bit of sarcasm.