I couldn't get through this title. It ended up not being for me, but I hope it finds a hope with other readers.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
Some of my stream-of-consciousness notes while reading that I feel will serve as an apt review, because I have no idea how to write a review of this incredibly weird, powerful book:
--The first 80% or so of this book felt like a fever dream. We have an unreliable narrator who gets himself into hilarious madcap adventures with his handlers on book tour but who is also deeply unwell, and he admits that to us. The story meanders in a way that confuses the reader and makes the book impossible to put down. What’s going on here? Who’s the author? What’s his book about? Who’s The Kid? And then it all comes together with a gut punch.
--I’ve seen other reviewers call this book THE book on being Black in America. That’s not for me to say. But I will say that I think this is required reading.
--The writing style almost reads like Lemony Snicket. +1 for demon horse at the Denver airport mention and also Nic Cage?
--I’m going to be thinking about this book for a long time.
This book right here was sooo much fun to read I couldn’t put it down…. This is for sure ONE HELL OF A BOOK, for real for real!!! We meet an author whose name we don’t know, getting into so trouble here and there in his book tour, the first thing he got into in the beginning of the book had me ROLLING with laughter. Anyway he even has this condition where he doesn’t know what’s real or imaginary. He’s a black man but doesn’t even believe it, until someone tells him, his publishers don’t want him to write or sound black, it’s crazy! And then we get introduced to Soot and his story, where he gets bullied because of the color of his skin and his parents guiding him through it but in a loving way, creating a bubble of love for him. But of course the world is how it is and I love how his family band together to give him the knowledge and understanding of what’s happening now.
Overall this book was awesome, it was controversial at times, and there is nothing wrong with that, the author was amazing. I have never read this style of book before, happy I finally read it.
This book is just like its title “Hell of a Book”
This unique book is a must-read for everyone. It is like nothing else you have read and should be on everyone’s must read list.
Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for this advanced copy.
Hell of a Book gets you off on such a rollicking start that you're inclined to buy into the title lock, stock, and barrel. It promises to be so much fun, and in it's way it is, until of course it isn't. At which point, the party is over, but the pages keep turning, because what is going on is so much more important and insightful that you have to keep reading. In fact, you can't look away.
A wonderful, engaging read from beginning to end. Fast-paced and original storytelling at its best. Jason Mott has gained a fan.
This book was a rollercoaster of emotions.
Thank you NetGalley and Dutton for giving me the opportunity to read this.
This book was a difficult to follow even though I was very excited to read. Through the reading it made it hard to discuss with a Book Club. The average reader will probably not complete the book as I did with about 90 pages remaining.
I struggled through parts of this book, but ultimately I am so glad that I read it. In a time when our country is so divided, it feels appropriate to read a story about a portion of our citizenship that is consistently persecuted. We still have so much work to do.
This wildly inventive and unique narrative is unlike anything I’ve read before. The unconventional plot grabs you and doesn’t let go. Using a blend of satire and tragedy, the imagined and the real, Jason Mott explores what it means to be a black male in America. The story is told alternating between two parallel storylines. One perspective is of an unnamed Black author who is promoting his book on tour throughout the US. The other perspective is of a Black boy called Soot who is growing up in the south. The story is intense, compelling, heartbreaking and humorous conveying thought provoking issues in a clever and original manner. This timely powerhouse of a book is not to be missed.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
It's not surprising that Hell of a Book won the National Book Award - what is surprising is how accessible it is to the reader. It drew me in from the beginning, and I will be recommending it to my library patrons.
A funny, questioning meta-narrative that spun into wisdom. The thread about publishing was funny and a little bit harrowing. The audio format worked well, but I was more interested in the author's tale (perhaps due to the reader). Recommended!
Great book that jumps through time and you really can't tell what is true and what is not. You don't know the narrators name and it is hard to tell if events in the book are actually happening, or just in the narrators head.
It really is.
This book is a standout in more ways than one. First the obvious: look at that cover! Then again, how many novels have a nameless protagonist all the way through the book? Get into it deeper, and the distinctions become more complex. The buzz around it is wholly justified. My thanks go to Net Galley and Random House for the review copy. This book is for sale now.
Our author is on an odyssey that takes the form of a book tour, and it lands him, in the end, back where he grew up. He doesn’t tour alone; apart from the various organizers he meets in various locations, he is accompanied by a small Black child he refers to as “The Kid.” Alternately, we also see the story of a young Black boy, a very Black boy, nicknamed “Soot,” who grows up in the American South.
As I read, I am always on the back foot, understanding most of what it being said, yet developing questions as I go. Our author says (often) that he has a condition, and that this is probably why he can see The Kid when others cannot. My notes ask whether his condition is dissociative, and is The Kid just part of himself? Or is The Kid Soot? Are Soot and The Kid both part of the author? Every time I come up with a plausible theory, something else happens to undercut it. Yet one other thing becomes clearer all the way through: to be born an African-American boy in the United States is to be perpetually on the back foot; perpetually having to guess how best to proceed; to perpetually guess at one’s welcome or lack of same, at the quality of one’s relationships with Caucasians, to perpetually guard one’s own safety. And to be very Black—“Nigga, I bet when you get out of the car your daddy’s oil light come on”—is to invite not only the suspicion and hostility of Caucasians, but to draw the enmity of lighter Black people, too.
The synopsis of this story that initially drew me billed it as humor, and in places, it is not only funny, but laugh-out-loud funny. But the further we get in, the darker it becomes.
There are a number of sardonic references to the publishing world; editors, agents, and other promoters have told the author that while it’s fine to write about Black characters, He must not write about being Black:
“The last thing people really want to hear about is being Black. Being Black’s a curse—no offense—and nobody wants to feel cursed when they read something they just finished paying $24.95 for…The future of this country is all about patriotic, unity-inducing language. Post-Racial. Trans-Jim Crow. Epi-Traumatic. Alt-Reparational. Omni-Restitutional. Jingoistic Body-Positive. Sociocultural-Transcendental. Indigenous-Ripostic. Treat of Fort Laramie-Perpendicular. Meta-Exculpatory. Pan-Political. Uber-Intermutual. MOK-Adjacent. Demi-Arcadian Bucolic. Write about love. Love and Disney endings…”
Later, an interviewer asks if the past doesn’t still matter, and the author says, “It does. Not just three-fifths of it, but all of it.”
So, my friend, you can see why this book should be called a love story. Race? Oh, no no no. Fear? Injustice? Police brutality? Of course not. After all, this is a hell of a book!
Highly recommended; one of the year’s finest.
This book is one hell of a book! This book has you guessing what is reality and what is imagination as the author navigates the horrors of racism and police violence to black men and uses his imagination as a way to cope and escape his trauma. I was equally enthralled and wondering what would come next as I was confused and left without answers, which was of course the point.
I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I seem to be in the minority here but I think this book was a hell of a waste of time. I understand what the author was trying to do, but I just didn’t like his disjointed and confusing style. Parts of the book were beautifully written. Most of the Soot parts as a matter of fact. But the unnamed author portions felt like an acid trip and all over the place. I know some folks said this book was funny, but I didn’t see any humor at all.
Hell of a Book
by Jason Mott
Pub Date: June 29, 2021
Penguin Group Dutton
In Hell of a Book, an African-American author sets out on a cross-country book tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives Jason Mott's novel and is the scaffolding of something much larger and more urgent: since his novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.
Prepare yourself because this book has heavy themes: colorism, system/institutionalized racism, generational trauma, police violence, discrimination within the workplace, mental illness, internalized self-hate, need for optimism, self-love, etc. Although disturbing on many levels - I was all-in early on and wanted to understand if and how the shooting, the author, and the boy eventually come to a reckoning and to see if there were any connections among the three seemingly unrelated threads. I was not disappointed. I think fans of Paul Beatty, Mat Johnson, Colson Whitehead will appreciate the style/form and humor.
Thanks to Penguin Group Dutton and Net Galley for the ARC.
A really good and intriguing idea for a novel that was unfortunately let down by poor writing/editing.
Dare I say it?
This book, was definitely - one hell of a book.
So, here's the thing. I'm not entirely sure I really had any idea what was happening throughout most of the plot. And I didn't think that it particularly mattered. But the thing is, I don't think the main character did either and you FELT that the entire time. Which ultimately means, it in fact, does matter. And you can feel how much it matters.
As the author in the story struggles to weed through his own issues with newfound fame, mental health, suppressed trauma, what it means to be Black in America, and the mystery of a curious little boy... Mr. Mott definitely knew what was happening when he crafted this witty, yet heartbreakingly powerful story.
We find woven threads of racism, colorism, mental health, police violence, family, belonging, and feeling deserving - all while immersed in a thoughtful and astoundingly creative mystery that is sprinkled with a bit of magic.
But ultimately it's not magic. It's real life, and it's a conversation to be had and a book to read. A book I hope you will read.
This book was such a ride! I love the voice of the unreliable narrator who provides much needed humorous undertones to what is an incredibly serious subject: namely, the Black Condition in America. I will admit that I got confused between the intertwining storylines and while I accept that this is necessary for the plot device to function, it could have been edited for better clarity. As much as the narrative language sidles up to you like a buddy, much of the experiences felt distanced and I think that is a function of striving to achieve the 'everyman' tone of the lived experience of a Black men in the US. There are some really great secondary characters and I wanted more of them in this book.