Thanks for the Trouble is a magical and hauntingly beautiful novel, written by Tommy Wallach.
Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover that there just might be a few things left worth living for.*
For those of you who were in the blogosphere last year, it would have been hard to miss everyone raving about Tommy Wallach’s We All Looked Up. If you thought that book was something to fawn over, wait until you hear about this one because honestly, I can’t even begin to understand how I will be able to translate my love for this book into words. For a writer – of dubious quality, I will admit – you’d think that pulling words out of thin air to describe what most people cannot would be my forte. But I, too, often struggle to verbalise how utterly impressed I am with something. Thank goodness I haven’t tried to make booktube videos, because I’m sure it would just be me sitting in front of the camera, holding the book and saying things like: Oh my gosh… It was just… I can’t even. That’s eloquence right there, people.
But for you, I will attempt to arrange twenty-six letters into word-like formations and place them together in such a way that resembles something like a sentence. For you, I will try.
Thanks for the Trouble was a book unlike anything I’d ever encountered before. I got a taste of Tommy Wallach’s writing style when I read his previous book last year, but my love for this incredibly talented author began as I read the first page of his latest creation. From that moment on, I knew this was going to be a novel I would fall in love with. And thank goodness I wasn’t disappointed. This was a book that made me feel all the feels. Whatever the emotion, you can bet I felt it while reading this book. Happiness? Tick. Sadness? Double tick. Confusion? At times, tick. Anger? When the book ended: TICK. I was taken on an emotional rollercoaster, and if you decide to pick this book up too, I’m sure you will be as well. So keep your arms and legs and any additional limbs you might have inside the cart, because Thanks for the Trouble will take you on one heck of a ride.
Let’s start which, arguably, the most important character of this novel. The character that without whom, this novel wouldn’t have been the same. The character whom a lot of reviewers are hating on and calling ‘just another Manic Pixie Dream Girl’. Her name is Zelda. I think that whether you like this book or not depends a lot on how you view Zelda. I’ve read some other reviews and have heard that a few people didn’t like her because they weren’t convinced by her backstory or they couldn’t connect to her, or that they thought she had no real purpose but to aid Parker’s own emotional journey to finding the strength he needed to fight his own battles. To me, Zelda was a beautifully-written and complex character. She was a person that I could never fully understand and it was always a challenge to fully connect with her, but I think that’s the beauty in Tommy Wallach’s writing. He created Zelda to be this somewhat illusive, dreamlike character without allowing her to fully fall into that Manic Pixie Dream Girl category because she had a life and dreams and such a vibrant personality that cordoned her off from venturing into that wishy-washy end of the spectrum. I especially loved the bizarre yet magical friendship she and Parker had and found myself wiping away the tears that were rapidly rolling down my cheeks towards the end.
Aside from being utterly adorable and someone I just wanted to wrap up into a big hug, Parker was a brilliant, astoundingly realistic character. It’s not often that I read books from the point of view of a guy because sometimes I find the writing style to be not as poetic and a little too harsh. However, that wasn’t the case in this novel. Parker was definitely someone I felt connected to. Someone I cried over. Someone I felt my heart physically break for. The tragic story of how he became mute was particularly touching, but I loved seeing that even though he was mute, this wasn’t portrayed as something to merely gain the reader’s sympathy and nor was it his defining factor. I would have been annoyed if we were constantly reminded of his disability and were not allowed to see anything past that. While we knew Parker was mute, that didn’t affect the way he was able to communicate both with us as the reader and other characters. While we knew he was mute, we weren’t constantly reminded of that fact, allowing us to read the novel without being bashed over the head with a brick, Tommy Wallach saying: You. Must. Feel. Sorry. For. My. Protagonist. So in that way, I fell in love with the writing style. It was as if Parker was talking to us the whole time and I couldn’t help but be glued to the pages. He had such a compelling voice – mind’s voice, if I have to clarify – and I adored the humour he brought to the pages.
I feel as though the development that both Parker and Zelda undergo are possibly the most integral parts of this novel. Parker begins with no real aspirations for the future. He hangs out in hotels, watching people and occasionally stealing their belongings. And then when he meets Zelda, we are introduced to a girl consumed by her sadness, a ‘perfect sadness’, and one that drew Parker to her. In a way, these to characters were very similar to one another in the beginning and they developed in the same way. We see both of them change their lives and experience new things, forever altering their view on the world. Although these two people end up in different places in the end, we see the shift from this ‘perfect sadness’ to one of imperfection. To fully understand what that means, you’ll just have to read Thanks for the Trouble. But to me, the word ‘imperfection’ accurately represents the kind of novel this one is. Tommy Wallach doesn’t create his characters to be ‘perfect’. They all have flaws and faults, each of them so starkly different from the next – and it is these imperfections that make them so incredibly human. If they were perfect, they would be incapable of growth or change. If they were perfect, there would never be a need to write this review because everyone would have already come to the conclusion that the characters in this novel are universally-recognised as perfect. And so to me, calling this novel imperfect is possibly the best praise I can give it. Yes, some people may not agree with my review. They might think this novel is rubbish, and they’re entitled to that view. But that’s the whole point of imperfection: freedom. Freedom of opinion. Freedom to change. Freedom of interpretation. Perfection is rigid. Oppressing. Confining. So in the end, that’s what these characters find. Freedom. They both have grown to release themselves from their state of perfect entrapment, and that’s what I find most magical about this book.
I feel like I haven’t really given anything away with this review, but that’s just how I wanted to write it. I launched into this book knowing nothing other than it was written by Tommy Wallach and I really enjoyed his other book, so why not read this one?, and I think that’s the best way to dive into Thanks for the Trouble. If you’re planning on reading this book, please don’t try and find out anything more. I think the best part about it is being surprised and shocked and not quite sure of what to make of it but loving it anyway. Trust me, you’ll fall head-over-heels for this perfectly imperfect book. I’d give Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach a score of 10 out of 10. I honestly can’t recommend this one enough! If you’ve read this novel, what are some of your thoughts? Do you think that Zelda is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, or something more complex? Do you agree with my reasoning behind saying this book is imperfect? What do you think of diving into books mildly unprepared for what might lie ahead? I’d love to know 🙂
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!