Thomas is one of a group of young British writers who call themselves the New Puritans and advocate telling stories as straightforwardly as possible. Here a young man allergic to sunlight spends his days in a heavily curtained suburban bedroom, his impressions of the outside world entirely mediated through American TV sitcoms. Meanwhile, his best friend, a math whiz, languishes as a waitress at a local pizza parlor because she's terrified of everything beyond her home town. When these misfits hear of a Chinese healer, they decide to find him, and they venture out in an old VW van. The heliophobe wraps himself in tin foil and the coward sticks to low-speed roads that appear "yellow" on the map, so that we can't miss the "Wizard of Oz" parallel. The novel succeeds as a quirky, affectionate satire of brand-saturated Britain, but its antic plot veers toward the cutesy, and the prose, deliberately—indeed, puritanically—banal, never lets the characters burst into Technicolor.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
Slacker lit is so 1992--the year of Coupland's Generation X--
but Thomas, a dewy talent much touted in the UK, gives smirking satire a warmer heart in this contemporary quest novel. Its twentysomethings languish in the suburban wastelands of Essex, engaging the world primarily through e-mail, the Internet, and American sitcoms and movies. Luke, at least, has an excuse for his narrow existence: he's allergic to sunshine and can't leave his bedroom. When a distant spiritual healer claims to have a cure, Luke and his friends set off on a road trip that symbolizes breaking free, taking risks, living
. The theme of self-discovery weighs a bit heavily, as does the Wizard of Oz
framework (Luke wears a tinfoil suit; his best friend, Julie, is a clinical coward; and they're all off to see the guru). Gen Xers will probably skip this nostalgia trip, but members of Gen Y are likely to embrace the pop-culture references and the characters' rambling conversations on everything from crap jobs to New Age lifestyles to imaginary numbers. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved