Title: Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated
Author: Tom Starita
Genre: Literary Fiction / Humor / Satire
This story is one of not-coming-of-age, the opposite of the classic Bildungsroman plot. Instead of Lucas James accepting responsibility, this is the irreverent, somewhat crass, and humorously self-absorbed story of a young man who won’t grow up, even when circumstances try to force him to change his ways.
The tale is told from James’s perspective, and as he frequently informs the reader, it’s all about him. So the narration follows his digressions as he discusses unlucky numbers, diet and exercise, and how he grew up as the middle son of a musician who decided to leave when responsibilities became too much for him.
He manages to make the zig-zagging plot fun, though, thanks to his strong sense of humor and the excessive hubris he possesses. He is likable, despite his stubbornness, lack of morals, and determination to shirk, lie, or wheedle his way out of anything smacking of responsibility.
Like his father, James is devoted to his music, and he’ll do anything to keep “work” from getting in the way of his dream of becoming a “rock god.” But when his long-standing and long-suffering fiancé breaks up with him, he discovers that, suddenly, he has to do something if he wants to keep eating.
Since his musical genius has yet to create an original hit, he has to get a job and locate a new apartment. After looking around at what he can find in walking distance, as he doesn’t have a car of his own, he earns a place at “That Store,” part of a big-box corporation that sells all the fancy items in life that one doesn’t need, according to James.
The manager is unpleasant and full of his own self-importance, which doesn’t endear him to James, who is proud of the fact that he runs his own life. So he reasserts his independence by quietly stealing from the corporation, starting with silverware and expanding to scented candles and towel warmers.
Most of the book is spent in helping readers understand how Lucas James reached the current state of his life, so there are chapters that jump back in time, discussing how he met his fiancé, what their first fight was about and what lead to their breaking up, and at times, this hopping around can come off as disjointed.
At places, the story could benefit from further editing polish, and there were places where the story never felt complete—as though the continuity was lost due to the non-chronological structure of the story.
Those who like a tongue-in-cheek commentary about life, materialism, and corporate America will enjoy this humorous gem. While one might not agree with James’s conclusions about life, the reader can still appreciate his commitment to himself and his dreams. Told with unswerving honesty and good natured humor, Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated will make readers laugh, even as they shake their heads at the impossible schemes the protagonist employs to “be true to himself.”
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