Review: Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft

Jonathan is a kid dealing with the death of his twin brother Telly. He focuses on music and poetry to help him through his grief, which means that school takes a back seat. As a result, Jonathan is assigned the task of writing the life story of WWII veteran David O.H. Cosgrove II. With the help of his close friends (his “Thicks”), a veteran, a guitar, an angel, and a girl with ever-changing hair, Jonathan reaffirms his belief in the value of life.

I enjoyed this book, so I was really disappointed when Jonathan used the word “faggy” so casually, without mentioning how homophobic it is. I mention this right away because it colored my opinion throughout the rest of the book.

This is a beautifully written novel; ‘ Wesselhoeft knows his way around some wonderful descriptive language and similes. I loved the reoccurring scenes with Jonathan standing by the bridge, beginning with his fall at the very beginning of the novel. It was a really interesting device through which to convey the changes in Jonathan’s emotional state. The connection made between David’s experience during the war, when he was swimming toward the shimmer, and the comparison made to Jonathan’s reaction to his brother’s death was a great moment.

One of my favorite parts of this book was the relationships that are developed between Jonathan and his “thicks”, particularly between Nick and Jonathan. It was an honest depiction of what people who really care about each other are like, especially when they are trying to help a friend and failing to articulate what they mean. This is why Nick was my favorite Thick; his friendship was probably the most loving and honest relationship Jonathan had in his life. Nick was always the person initiating Jonathan’s growth and pushing him toward a healthier outlook. The best scene in this novel is when Nick tucks Jonathan into Telly’s bed and sleeps next to him in a rocking chair. It’s a perfect depiction of the depth of their friendship.

For me, the Thicks drew a sharp contrast to the relationships Jonathan had with women. While I understand the impulse to ‘check out’ the women he meets, I found myself uncomfortable with Jonathan’s interactions with the female characters in this book. His mother Mimi was never talked about without mention of her breasts. While I think that his friendship with Katie “Dreadlock” opened Jonathan’s eyes to human suffering that he hadn’t understood before, I also think there was a distinct element missing when compared to his connection to the Thicks. There is also a bizarre and totally creepy scene with Jonathan’s teacher, Mr. Bram”bird”well, and a “sexy” female robot, the purpose of which I still don’t understand.

After finishing Adios, Nirvana, I think that it is a compelling and worthwhile read about a boy reevaluating his life with a few significant flaws worth pointing out. Ultimately, I think you should read it.

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