Fruit by Brian Francis ~ Barnes & Noble Summary:
Peter Paddington is your typical thirteen-year-old paperboy with a few exceptions. He’s 204 pounds, at the mercy of an overactive imagination, and his only friend is a trash-talking beauty queen reject from across the street. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Peter’s nipples pop out one day and begin speaking to him, threatening to expose his private fantasies to an unkind world. Peter knows that if he could just lose weight, develop a brand-new personality, and get rid of those pesky talking nipples, he’d be able to find the acceptance he desperately craves. But it isn’t easy to change who you really are, and Peter, ready or not, is finally forced to confront his secret self.
I was asked to read this book by a friend of mine, Sean Cisterna who recently directed and produced the movie Moon Point. I didn’t know what to expect – Fruit is not the kind of book I would pick up to read. I begrudged every moment I had to open the book even though each time I sat to read, I became interested in Peter’s story. I would read and read, but nothing happened.
Sadly, I will admit that this book defeated me. I pride myself in finishing every book I start. Not once have I left a book unfinished. I guess there’s a first time for everything. Fruit will be that book for me – the book I just couldn’t bring myself to keep reading to the end. Nothing in this book stirred me enough to keep going. I was half way through when I looked at my husband and said “I just can’t do it. This is not enjoyable for me. I can’t keep doing this to myself.” I closed Fruit and left the book mark out. It has been sitting on my kitchen counter closed, mocking me, ever since.
Not everything about Fruit was boring for me. Brian Francis gives us an honest narrator: a simple boy who presents the complexities and anxieties of adolescence with humour and pathos. Peter Paddington does not have much going for him. He’s overweight, has one friend (a foul-mouthed girl), is from a dysfunctional family with an overbearing mother, two sisters who alienate him and an overworked father. Plus, he is confused about his sexual orientation. Things are not exactly set up to be easy for Peter Paddington.
I laughed out loud many times as I read Peter’s narrative. His naivete and general opinions about the world reminded me of what it was like to be thirteen. Francis writes Peter’s story eloquently and at no point did I feel that this was an adult trying to give voice to an adolescent boy. This book is fluid and very well written. It’s messages and ironies are conveyed subtly.
However, as an adult woman I found it very hard to connect to the protagonist – which I normally must be able to do in order to enjoy a book. I’m by no means an authority on what boys will read, or adolescents by that matter. If I can’t connect to the novel, I can’t see myself selling this book to high school students, even grade 9s, the closest age group to the protagonist. Most adolescents in my experience require lots of action or lots of development of character and relationships – this book has very little of these or at the very least, they develop slowly (remember, my opinions only reflect the half-way point of Fruit). It is one boy’s internal monologue as he struggles through a difficult moment in his life. Granted, many adolescents go through this…I just believe I would find it a hard sell. I’m sure there are many young readers out there who will appreciate this book more than I did.
I think you have to know your child and the kind of books they read before suggesting this one. In any case, I must reiterate that from what I read it was well written and funny. It’s just not the kind of book that appeals to me, I’m sure there are many out there who would disagree.