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The House of Tomorrow Hardcover – March 4, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Sebastian Prendergast, the teenage narrator of Bognanni's funny and unique debut, lives in Iowa's first geodesic dome with his grandmother, a devout follower of futurist philosopher Buckminster R. Fuller. But when Nana has a stroke, Sebastian is thrown together with Janice and teenageJared Whitcomb, who were touring the home when Nana was stricken. Soon, Sebastian and Jared form an unlikely bond via the great teenage tradition of punk rock, starting their own band despite the objections of everyone around them and Sebastian's lack of musical ability (holding a guitar for the first time, Jared says, Strum, and Sebastian asks, What do you mean?). And while Jared succeeds to some degree in socializing Sebastian—teaching him about music, smoking, and curse words—Sebastian ends up getting more than he bargained for when the two get caught up in Whitcomb family drama. The boys here don't come of age—girls are just beginning to exist and lifelong struggles are only taking root—but their connection is an honest, noisy, and raucous look at friendship and how loud music can make almost everything better. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In this heartbreakingly funny and deeply compassionate story of self-discovery and family bonding, debut novelist Bognanni explores the unlikely friendship of two social outcasts and their desperation to be heard. Since his parents’ untimely death, 17-year-old Sebastian Prendergast has lived in semi-rural Iowa with his eccentric grandmother in a geodesic dome. Having homeschooled Sebastian in the teachings of futurist philosopher R. Buckminster Fuller, his grandmother deems Sebastian humanity’s next savior. But when she suffers a stroke, Sebastian must leave the comfort of his bubble world to save her from her obsessive, self-destructive plans. Sebastian soon comes under the care of the Whitcombs—the downtrodden, husbandless mother, Janice; the beautiful but bratty Meredith; and sickly, sarcastic Jared, who introduces Sebastian to punk rock and brutal honesty. As Sebastian pieces together the perplexities of domestic life, he discovers the nature of family trust, love and heartache, and healing friendship. Tightly plotted, and as fun and lively as a Ramones tune, Bognanni’s timely novel perfectly captures teenage angst in all its raw and riotous discomfort. --Jonathan Fullmer
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If you've ever been truly moved by music, I absolutely recommend this book to you. Music is essentially the driving force behind The House of Tomorrow, as it has the power to shape someone, and to free your soul, I suppose you could say. I loved the raw passion on each and every single page.
The characters are not glamorous. Every single character within this book was flawed, which I liked. I liked seeing teen boys who swear, mothers who aren't perfect, eccentric grandmothers, and socially awkward boys. Oh my. I enjoyed the grit. Bognanni paints an interesting dynamic of friendship and family relationships. He shows the individual within Sebastian, and Sebastian's relation to society. The topic of do we need other people is explored.
Most of all though, it's about dirty punk rock. Not the cute Fall Out Boy, Cute Without The E kind, the scary Sex Pistols kind is more like it in this book. I used to fancy myself a fan of punk music when I was in high school, after all, I owned a Dropkick Murpheys shirt and thick black glasses. Alas, I was not a fan of true punk, unless you count rocking out to I Wanna Be Sedated by the Ramones as being a fan. I don't. That said, I didn't feel lost at all while reading this book. I was somewhat apprehensive, as I thought perhaps this book would be full of hate and anger and scary, but luckily my fears were assailed.
Here's some quotes I enjoyed from The House of Tomorrow, as the writing style is the kind I enjoy:
"Do you know who Napoleon was?' he asked.
'The emperor of France,' I said.
'Wrong,' said Jared. 'He was the first punk rocker.'
'He was the emperor of France,' I said.
'Death is nothing but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily,' said Jared. 'You know who said that?'
'Yes. And do you know what, Sebastian?'
'We are dying daily." -pg 90 ARC
I'm such a history geek. I love the idea of Napoleon being the first punk rocker, I love it.
The House of Tomorrow contains profanity, references to sex, all sorts of fun things, but that's never stopped me from reading a book, and I thought it sort of fit. Also, this book is put out by an adult imprint of Putnam, The Amy Einhorn imprint. While this is technically an adult book, the protagonist is a teenager and goes through many teenager things including a search/exploration of identity. I could see this working for the crowd that enjoys Catcher In The Rye, as well as Chuck Palahniuk, as well as High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. It's not quite YA, but I think older teens would enjoy this book.
It's so gritty and heartfelt and REAL that I couldn't help but feel attached from sentence one. Sebastian, a 16 year old who grew up in a geodesic dome with a grandmother obsessed with Buckminster Fuller, and Jared, a 16 year old whose family is screwed up and who just recently underwent a heart transplant, are not your average teen boys. But they could have been. Their flaws are so understandable, their anger and frustration so real, that despite their odd circumstances, they are, in the end, just two completely identifiable teen boys, and the bond that they form is believable and touching in a way rarely seen in books nowadays.
Bognanni's way of dealing with Jared's problems through the music he listens to and creates was masterful. Music allows Sebastian and Jared to discover themselves and reveal themselves to each other in a way that most teenage boys would be unable to do. They are the music, and the music is them, and if you've ever had any kind of relationship with music, you need to read this book. There is no better song to explain how Jared and Sebastian felt than "Teenagers from Mars" by the Misfits, and the way he wove this in and allowed it, along with other punk rock music, to create a bond between Jared and Sebastian, was absolutely genius.
Something else genius: the way he used punk rock to set a mood for the book without letting the mood of the book be the punk rock. Let me try to explain that better. I knew, going into the book, that I would be reading about some of my favorite punk. So I made a playlist in iTunes with things like the Misfits, Minor Threat, the Ramones, the Dead Kennedys, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Business, etc. . ., and I set it to go when I started the book. At first, it was okay. But as I read more and more, it wasn't angry, fast music that I wanted to be listening to. While the music perfectly described the fears of these two teenage boys and allowed them to express themselves without acting like retarded girls (I'm sure that's something Jared would say), it was all just a cover up for their deeper problems. The story of their frienship was so sweet and sad that, while gritty, angry music worked for them, it didn't work for me while reading.
Reading this book, I felt like I could tell that Peter Bognanni put his heart and soul into it. He raises interesting questions and gives you just enough of the answers. He breathes so much life into his two unique, quirky characters that I can't help but wonder if one of them is his son. One of them was my brother, even if he didn't mean for it to be, and my guess is at least one of the boys is someone in your life as well. His writing is lyrical and beautiful and, I say it again, heartfelt.
One more thing I'd like to say as an afterthought - referring to Napoleon as the first punk rocker: totally RAD! I absolutely love it!
I think it would be hard to read this book and not love it, or at least feel it. Despite the teen smoking and the affluence of naughty language, it comes HIGHLY recommended by Brizmus Blogs Books (for older teens and adults, of course). Read it, and you'll see what I mean.