Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching (and sometimes stealing from) the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things worth living for.
Tommy Wallach’s debut YA novel, We All Looked Up, was a great read and a huge success with its eclectic cast of characters, multiple viewpoints and whip-smart dialogue. Thanks for the Trouble therefore is one of the most anticipated releases of the year, and Wallach definitely follows up on his talent.
Thanks is a smaller story entirely to its predecessor and a more introverted look at the life of a teenager. Parker sees himself as different and feels he has little to offer the world. When we meet him first, he is seemingly just existing, his tendency to hang out in hotels seemingly a metaphor for his unwillingness to engage with reality, to observe the fantasy world that is hotel living.
Zelda comes springing into his life embodying what is now the classic manic pixie dream girl, with somewhat of a twist here. Parker is immediately entranced and wants to impress her in whatever ways he can. She is an interesting character, seemingly full of mystery and completely honest all at the same time, a mystery that is left open to the reader’s interpretation.
Wallach’s writing comes across as spontaneous, almost like he is having a conversation with the reader, which can be difficult to achieve. The book is free-flowing and not overly concerned with plot points, similar to We All Looked Up. Despite the fact that both establish a deadline that looms over the main characters, here and in We All Looked Up, what happens along the way is far more important. Wallach is clearly interested in characters who are creative and have a lot to offer, but just need that little push in the right direction, or in Parker’s case, a wake-up call.
I also like how Wallach establishes the tone early on here. It’s almost as if the adult author is telling us through the voice of Parker that he won’t be talking down to the reader here, or filtering his language. Another striking passage early on establishes the viewpoint of the book, changing halfway through a description from third-person to first-person. The debate in the writer’s head comes across as hilarious, as to what perspective to tell the story, spilling out onto the page.
As a character-driven book, Thanks for the Trouble is an excellent study of the mind of an introvert and Parker’s voice keeps you engaged right to the end.