This is probably one of the most difficult reviews I have written in a long while, for two reasons: 1) I am a HUGE Joanne Harris fan; I have read nearly all her books and just adore them - except for this one 2) I really had no idea what was going on for most of this book.
How do I even explain? Let's give it a go: The story is narrated by B.B., a loner who spends most of his time on the internet either writing his own personal diary and telling the story of his life as he sees it and also writing fic (stories) on his badguysrock.com - a website that he created himself and attracts a whole array of misfits with their own problems. What is apparant from very early on is that B.B. had a particularly unconventional childhood with a very bizarre family around him. Switching between his private journal and the fiction he writes on badguysrock, we get to see B.B's life played out before us in all its murderous glory.
Sounds simple enough, right? The thing is, I just didn't get it. I read somewhere, before I picked this book up, that Harris started writing this and had no idea where it was going and how it would end up, and I'm afraid to say that that is the same feeling I got while reading it. I didn't get any sense of a plot or purpose for much of it and at times it felt like I was watching someone vent their spleen about.....well, everything. It felt cynical, dark and even bitter but even then I got the sense of it being on the part of the author more than the protagonist.
There were other characters in this book, one of whom - Albertine - also shares her diary entries with us and they give this books some of the unexpected twists that appear more towards the end. Because of the tone and subject matter of the book there are naturally going to be one or two unsavoury characters, but I found that I didn't like any of them. I couldn't find a single redeeming quality in anyone who crossed the pages, which made for some uncomfortable reading for me.
It is with a sigh and a heavy heart that I write this review, as (as I said) I am a huge Joanne Harris fan but this book felt like such a departure from her other books that I love so much - even Gentlemen and Players which is also classed as a thriller but which I loved (it was very plot driven and had humour as well as some great charaters and twists).
To sum up: blueeyedboy is not a bad book, it is a different book than I am used to from Harris. There were parts of the book that I really enjoyed and felt that I was getting into, but unfortunately they were outweighed by the parts that were dark and cynical and uncomfortable to me. I do believe that this may have been the point of the book - afterall, can we really believe anything we read on the internet? No, necessarily - we can be anyone we want on the internet; we can invent a whole new persona. It's just that for me, as a reader, it felt too chaotic, and too much dark with not enough light.
A good read, but not an enjoyable read. Liked it but didn't love it
on 9 April 2010
You are viewing a review by Diacha posting on badboysbook.@amazon.com
Posted at: 23:11 on Thursday 8
Listening to: Frankie Schubert and the Poxboys : String Quintet in C
This is a flawed but nonetheless compelling psychological novel. It is too long and has the potential to lose its readers. But for those who persevere through its heartbreak hill the home stretch is worth it.
On the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog - but they would do well to suspect it. Harris relates her story through the postings of two unreliable narrators on the badguysrock website, In keeping with the general ambiguity of the book, "rock" may be either a noun or a verb. Both protagonists are damaged from their childhoods. Blueeyedboy is fortysomething and lives at home with his Ma; Albertine is slightly younger and has known BB all her life. Neither is who they seem. Their web entries are either "restricted" in which case they are private journal entries that seem to be truthful, or "public " in which case they are likely to be fantasies or works of fiction ("fics") posted to entertain other members of the web community. A Greek chorus of the latter appears at the end of these entries essentially to grade them, for example: "chrysalisbaby: wish I could be there too (cries)." Fortunately these web-props are not very obtrusive and the chapters themselves are written not in trnk8d txtspk but in old-fashioned, long-hand literary prose.
In her commentary on the novel (see the author's website), Joanne Harris discusses her fascination with how many people now find their real "communities" in the virtual rather than the real world. That is true to some extent of BB and Albertine, but they and the main characters in the book all also reside very much in the real life community of Malbry, a village in the North, the same world as that of "Gentlemen and Players." Malbry's denizens engage in all the traditional rivalries, petty snobberies, spying, gossiping and I-hate-to-be the-one-to-tell-you-but revelations of a small community. The interplay between the virtual and physical worlds creates a sort of three-dimensional chessboard across which BB and Albertine make their increasingly aggressive moves. There is almost no happiness in the village except for snatched scenes between a little blind girl and her father and we know that they are doomed.
"Blueeyedboy's" psychological tension wells from two sources - the gradual unfolding of the past and revelation of who "BB" and "Albertine" really are; and the sense that BB is about to go over the edge. His fics specialize in murder fantasies. We learn (or think we learn) that there were two real life homicides in the past and there is the growing sense that there will soon be another.
In addition to the device of the web community, Harris makes heavy use of themes involving colour and synaesthesia. Blueeyedboy's mother, Gloria Winter née White, assigns each of her sons a colour: black, brown and blue, nicknames them accordingly and dresses them exclusively in the designated colour. This affects BB for life. He also turns out to be a synaesthete, experiencing strong smells and tastes as he perceives events. Another character sees - or claims to see- colours while hearing music (Harris gives a nod in the text to Gide's "La Symphonie Pastorale"), and BB's brother apparently suffers from mirror-touch synaesthesia. These themes add complexity to the book but at times seem forced.
Despite its need for editorial deadheading, "Blueeyed Boy" is a powerful book. It combines the insight of a literary novel with the suspense of a psychological thriller. I stayed up late to finish it and have been thinking of it since.
CaptainNero: NOT BAD FOR AN AMATEUR
Phil O'Fax: We need to talk about this
Diacha: is there anybody there?
Flora Bunda: (post deleted)
on 15 April 2011
To be honest, I've not really read a lot of Joanne Harris, so I don't really have much of a frame of reference, but I actually found the book pretty intense, so much so that I'm going to borrow the clichéd phrase and say that I could not put it down. Yes, it was a little complicated, and I was never entirely sure what was going on at any given moment in time, but I think that's what Harris was trying to do; unnerve the reader, to make them feel uncomfortable. In this she succeeded. Indeed, the plot twists were what really compelled me to keep reading.
Undeniably, there were parts if the book which I didn't like. I thought that sometimes blueeyedboy's fantasies were a little inconsistent. I guess that was what she was going for? In order to like enhance the sense that we're seeing the world through the eyes of a mentally disturbed man, but for me that didn't work so much. I also think that she didn't develop the whole Albertine/blueeyedboy relationship properly... it was somewhat unexplained, and similarly, I didn't really understand properly why blueeyedboy's mother hated Albertine so much, that wasn't really explained, nor was the ending. We never really found out who was committing the murder.
That said, I think that added to the sense of intrigue within the novel. I think perhaps the novel didn't entirely work, but that's not to say it wasn't well written, well structured and thrilling... Good, but perhaps not holiday reading.
This is a very strange, disturbing book. The main character, B.B. is forty-two lives with his mother, and his social life is played out online on social network sites rather than through real-life relationships. The posts he puts onto his social network site, badguysrock, and his online journal form the narrative structure of the novel. We also get to read the online posts of Albertine, a female who also accesses badguysrock, and who shares some kind of history with B.B. It very quickly becomes apparent that both Albertine and B.B. are very damaged individuals. But, just how damaged is often only hinted at. Because the story plays out through online posts and forums, as a reader you are never sure what to believe. Is B.B. giving us a 'true' account of his deeds, or are his fics (online stories), just purely that - a story/ fantasy that he only plays out in his mind?
What the reader is able to fathom though is that the world of B.B. is a dark, twisted one. There are no likeable characters in this novel, which can make persevering with it difficult at times. All of the relationships portrayed in this story are damaged and dysfunctional - people are painted in very dark colours, often being selfish, manipulative and controlling. Although love is referred to, personally I do not feel that any of the characters truly loved anyone but theirself. In fact, this is perhaps one of the most cynical novels that I have ever read. This results in the reading experience not being enjoyable; rather it makes it very uncomfortable. For that reason, I am glad I didn't take it on holiday with me - if I had, I would have felt that it tainted the holiday somehow.
So, with such strong reactions to the novel, and the difficulty in reading about the characters, why did I persevere? Well, in a way it is because of some kind of voyerism perhaps. You know the kind, the one which makes us intrigued by murderers and their pathology. The draw to the darker side of life. And, I have to admit, that has left me still with an uncomfortable taste in my mouth - that I would be drawn into the world of someone who is so obviously mentally ill.
In my defence, this novel does have some interesting ideas to put forward. The idea of colour, and how it may affect us; maybe even mold us. B.B. and his two brothers each had a colour assigned to them by their mother, so that washing their clothes could be easier for her, but B.B. often ponders if each boy was somehow influenced by the colour they received.
The senses also plays a big part in this novel. B.B. has a condition which makes him associate colours and smells with names and words. There is a blind girl who says she can see music - that musical have a corresponding coloure for her. And, with the characters relating through the media of the internet, this takes away sensory experience from their interactions - they are not able to hear the words that they share with each other, or even see the other person, in most cases.
And, of course, through the use of the internet, Harris is able to explore how we are ble to present to the world only that which we want others to see. Either over the internet, or through personal interactions, there is truth to our lives, but we decide what that truth may be, or how much of the truth we give to others.
So, all in all, although this novel was disturbing and dark, there was something there to keep me pulled in. Some may be frustrated by the structure - if you are the kind of reader who likes to have all the answers by the end, this may not be the one for you. Even with the last word, you are not sure what was truth and what was fiction; you will not have all of the answers. And if you're looking for a happy ending, you will be disappointed. However, if you like books which are edgy and really quite twisted, then this should entertain. Personally, I couldn't read much fiction like this - far too cynical to read on a regular basis - but I award three stars because there are interesting ideas behind this novel, and I have to admit that Harris wrote it well.
on 30 June 2014
Reviews > Blueeyedboy
Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris
by Joanne Harris
Lynn Matheson's review Jun 30, 14 · edit
5 of 5 stars
Read from June 15 to 28, 2014
I loved this book. It is a dark, psychological thriller. We see inside the mind of Blue Eyed Boy, the online name of Ben, who still lives with his mother in middle age. Through a series of web journals we come to realise how he has turned out like this as he describes his childhood and dysfunctional relationship with his mother. The journal entries become increasingly disturbing as we learn what Ben is doing with his time and we begin to suspect he is an unreliable narrator. The plot twists unexpectedly and then twists again. Even at the end the reader may feel not quite certain about what has occurred. I loved the description of the stultifying little town where the action takes place where ever body knows everybody's business and the poisonous women love to spread malicious gossip. The endless layers of snobbery are laid bare. Ben suffers from synethasia and this gives Joanne Harris' writing style an added richness. This is a gripping and disturbing read.
on 10 April 2010
Joanne Harris began her career with two works of dark fiction that in many ways define her style better than the crowd-pleasing 'Chocolat'. She has always been interested in the masks we hide behind, and in 'blueeyedboy' is able to give full rein to these ideas. The most fascinating aspect of social networking is that it allows for identities to be reshaped and shifted by those who take part. While it's important not to give away the climactic surprises of the story, suffice it to say that she uses concepts like the unreliable narrator, fantasy VS reality and the masking of emotions to reveal truths about people we only think we know.
'blueeyedboy' has the ring of dark truth for anyone who spends time social networking. It also seems like a natural extension of the styles she has explored in 'Gentlemen & Players' and before that, in 'Sleep, Pale Sister'. It's a cautionary and very modern story with killer twists, and if it appears to involve characters who seem motivated by something more cynical than usual, it's because the baroque formalities of the blogosphere can hide a multitude of sins. This one deserves to encourage readers who may only have explored her France- set fiction.
on 24 February 2015
Wry, sly and darkly humorous, this is an entertaining read whether you are an established fan of Joanne Harris or someone completely new to her work. blueeyedboy's story unfolds in a series of web posts to the online fiction forum #badguysrock; but is it really fiction? And if it is, why are so many people dead?
Users of blogging sites or social media (face it, that's all of us) should enjoy this tale with its slick, twisted depiction of virtual lives, where nobody is exactly who they seem to be, and even the evidence of the senses cannot be relied on. The author is mistress of her craft in an age where almost everyone behind a keyboard considers themself a writer, and the rest are unrelenting critics.
on 14 May 2010
Blueeyedboy is written in the form of blog entries with each chapter ending in the comments the post received. The posts are written on a site called badboysrock which encourages people with murderous fantasies to engage with one another.
Initially I loved the descriptions of the little boy growing up; the insecurities he felt and the pressure of being the only one of his siblings to still be alive. Unfortunately, about 150 pages in, everything began to fall about. The book began to concentrate on his murderous fantasies and the line between what he'd made up and what had happened became increasingly blurred. I'm sure this was deliberate, but it confused me.
I think the message of the book was that we can't trust what we read online, that we can all pretend to be whoever we want to be; but as a reader I'd have liked to know which bits were supposed to be true. The further into the book I got the more muddled everything became and the plot just seemed to disappear into increasingly dark areas. This confusion made it almost impossible for me to engage with the characters, most of whom I already disliked.
The comments at the end of each chapter ruined the flow of the book for me and I didn't find them very realistic. I also found the big reveal at the end to be a disappointment.
It was an interesting premise, but I'm afraid it didn't work for me.
Readers most familiar with Joanne Harris' whimsical 'Chocolat' series of novels might get a fright when they read this, but Harris proved she can write a dark psychological thriller with the excellent 'Gentlemen and Players'. 'Blueeyedboy' is in a similar vein, a story set in the the shadowy world of internet chatrooms, where no one is quite what they seem. It is written entirely as blog posts, which is rather gimmicky but serves the purpose of the story well enough. The actual plot is quite original, and there are some interesting twists. A couple of plot elements stretch the credibility rather too much, but it's an enjoyable enough yarn to forgive that. I don't think this will be everyone's cup of tea, but I do think it's worth reading to find out if you will like it or not. The start is slowish but it's worth persisting. Harris deserves credit for spotting an opportunity for a new kind of story, although I'm sure many more will follow and some at least will be more successful.
Despite its oddness and a few flaws, I would recommend giving this book a go. I can't guarantee you'll like it, but I did.
on 13 June 2011
I'm an avid reader, but for some reason this was the first Joanne Harris book I have ever read - and it was a cracker! From the very beginning it kept me hooked and although the characters are, for the most part, pretty unlikeable, they all have some redeeming features. Well, most. Perhaps Blue Eyed Boy's mother is the exception.
I'm not going to give anything away about the plot - that would be unfair - but the story is dark and the plot is amazing. The characters are intricate, deep and well-thought-out, and entirely believable. And the plot twist at the end made it even better - I had to go back and re-read parts once I knew the truth, just because it made me read them differently!
Joanne Harris is a genius storyteller and I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good thriller.