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Benny and Omar Paperback – August 1, 2001
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I understand that Eoin Colfer wrote this in his early days of writing. It has some funny parts, and being Irish myself, it's nice to see the references to hurling, which wouldnt be found in other books.
What I didn't really like about it is the fact that the climax fell flat. I had to read over it three times to figure out what was going on. Action scenes aren't Eoin's strong point, even sometimes in the Artemis Fowl books, but the mistakes were really apparent here. The tension was all over the place, dropping the suspense like a stone. The prose was confusing in places and I didn't enjoy it at all. What could've been an amazing scene just... wasn't.
The plot was also quite light, with a lot of filler. SImple enough story, done a few times: boy goes to foreign country, hates it there, then meets an oddball character on the wrong side of the law. It had a lot of padding, namely some comical scenes, that I did enjoy but they felt like they were dragging the plot down a little.
All in all, it was quick to read and had some good moments, but the writing and fluffy plot let it down. I love Eoin Colfer's later books though, (I absolutely reccommend the Artemis Fowl series) and hope he keeps writing.
While there's something to be said about Colfer's look at a country I've never seen referenced in literature (except...Colfer's own, in the second Artemis Fowl book....), there are a few points where things feel a bit wrong. I was shocked when the mother of the family referred to Tunisa as "some uncivilized pit, with diseased water and mosquitoes and foreigners," going on to claim that "the only culture they have belonged to the Romans." This is very early in the book, but we never really get a refutation of these pretty prejudice words. In fact, adoption of European culture is a pretty big plot point, with Omar only able to communicate with Benny using television quotes. (And how...would he understand what those quotes meant? No clue.)
Still, Benny is shown as a very open-minded character, doing his best to balance demands from his family and the struggles of Omar. And, when the big test comes, Benny opts to ruin his own chances at an easy life at home so that Omar might have a far, far better improvement in his own life.
Colfer's writing returns repeatedly to Tunisia, where he did missionary work in his younger days, and he is likely to write about it again. Hopefully with a bit more interesting plots and a fewer prejudice statements from prominent characters.
I didn't like some of the condescending, emasculating names Benny called his brother and the comparison of his supposed femininity with weakness, and I didn't like that there was some really weird mentally-ill-fat-character stuff that was kind of embarrassing to read (they basically made this one intellectually disabled kid an overenthusiastic fat joke, requiring the other characters to stop him from causing the protagonist bodily harm by bribing him with candy). There were just some weird choices made by the way the story was told, not the way the characters showed their values. I thought some of the character growth for Benny was well handled, and I did enjoy reading it most of the time, but kinda just like hurling, it wasn't the kind of thing that really gets me going.
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Eoin Colfer ISBN 978-1-4231-0281-6
What would you do if you had to move to Tunisia, Africa just because...Read more
Communicating with only TV lingo, Benny finds a Tunisian friend and learns what's really important.