Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr.
Published by The Viking Press, an imprint of Penguin
Review copy provided by the publicist
Junior Thibodeau grows up in rural Maine, a typical child and teen except for one thing: he knows with absolute certainty that the world will come to an end when he is thirty-six. Realizing this, he spends his life searching for meaning in a finite world. This is a story of fathers and sons, of teen love, of family drama and the one person who, through it all, is trying desperately to figure out if any of it really matters.
Everything Matters! is definitely a high-concept novel – the entire book revolves around the fact that Junior knows the world will end via comet, and he knows exactly when it will happen. Going into the novel, I was really excited about it because I thought it sounded incredibly creative and interesting, while at the same time I was nervous that it wouldn’t live up to its potential and may end up turning into some kind of hokey, clichéd novel.
I’m happy to say that I enjoyed Everything Matters! about as much as I possibly could have. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and complexity of many of the characters in the novel (Junior in particular) as this is such a plot-driven book. At least, I was expecting it to be a plot-driven book, and in many ways it absolutely is the story that moves things along. However, the characters are so well-drawn and authentic, and I don’t think I would have enjoyed the book nearly as much if Junior hadn’t been such a compelling character. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t actually like his character for much of the novel, believe it or not. But he was so realistic, so interesting and so honest that I couldn’t help caring about him, couldn’t help caring about the people he cared about and getting drawn into his world. And the funny thing is, I knew from the very start that these characters were doomed – yet I loved them anyway.
The interesting thing about Everything Matters! is that it asks a lot of questions but doesn’t offer any clear-cut answers. Junior spends most of his life operating under the assumption that nothing matters, and while he annoyed the crap out of me with this attitude, I could sort of get where he was coming from. If you knew the world would end in thirty years, or twenty, or ten, would you be motivated to make any sort of difference in it? I’m not sure that I would. But the last quarter of the book shows a huge turnaround for Junior, and it’s then where he starts to feel like some of the things in his life do matter, and that even if he can’t change the fate of the world, it’s still important to live life. I don’t know – I can’t explain it without giving plot points away, but truly, Everything Matters! gave me a lot to think about. After I closed the book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And upon finishing it, I knew exactly how I felt about the events in the book, but I know with absolute certainty that other people will feel drastically different from myself. And that’s the beauty of this novel.
Everything Matters! is the type of book that elicited a profound emotional reaction from me, but at the same time could easily have a different effect on everyone who reads it. I thought it was marvelously written, with a clever central concept executed perfectly, and with interesting characters to boot. So, yes, I really enjoyed this one and would highly recommend it.