Juliet, Reviewed

I didn’t become a hardcore Nick Hornby fan until I read A Long Way Down back in 2005. Since then, I have been hungry for new material. When I first heard about the release of Slam and that it would be a young adult novel, I was honestly disappointed, but I actually enjoyed it a lot. Still, Hornby’s latest Juliet, Naked (to be published late September) is a novel I have been waiting for since I finished A Long Way Down.

It was ironic to read a book about superfandom, considering my enthusiasm for Hornby’s writing — which some might perceive as superfandom, though by no means to the degree of the character Duncan in the novel, who gets an advance copy of a yet to be released album of solo acoustic demos of a reclusive 80’s rock star’s last & most famous album. I, unable (or unwilling) to wait until the end of September for the book to be published, got my hands on an advance readers copy (ARC) and read the book in one evening. I rather impressive feat for me. The last book I read in one evening was James Patterson’s Cat & Mouse, back in 1997. I started Juliet, Naked around 6 pm. I finished it around 1 am.

It is hard to say how the book ranks if I were to generate a top 5 list of hornby’s novels. It usually takes me a while to fully absorb a Hornby novel. I didn’t fully appreciate Slam (another book I got prior to publication) until months after I read an advance copy. So, perhaps anything I say about Juliet, Naked now, within 48 hours if finishing it, would be premature. It is hard, after years of built up anticipation, to give a novel proper, objective assessment. The two extreme responses are (a) built up anticipation results in extreme disappointment or (b) extreme desire to love something I have waited so long for ruins any objectivity, in favor of convincing myself that Hornby met or exceeded expectation. Such a problem isn’t present when you’re not dealing with your favorite contemporary author.

Perhaps both extremes are present and are canceling each other out. Nevertheless, this review today with most certainly need to be supplemented by a follow up review closer to the books publication, when I’ll also be more comfortable referencing details of the book. In a sense, this review won’t be so much a review, but a primer for a review, with some of my initial thoughts.

There are lots of Nick Hornby fans waiting for Juliet, Naked to be released. I can safely assure them that the book won’t disappoint them. It’s classic Nick Hornby, delving into obsession, loneliness in a way that Hornby’s fans love and new Hornby readers will appreciate.

How does Juliet, Naked rank compared to other Hornby novels. If I were to create a Top 5 list (which excludes Slam, with the understanding that Siam is technically a different genre) than here is where my list stands.

  1. A Long Way Down
  2. High Fidelity
  3. Juliet, Naked
  4. About A Boy
  5. How To Be Good

There is a lot a Hornby fan can read into this list. For one thing, High Fidelity is not #1, but A Long Way Down is. High Fidelity is a common favorite of Hornby fans (and especially the one’s who think of the novel before they think of the movie) and, from what I’ve seen, A Long Way Down is one the least favored. For reasons hard to explain, A Long Way Down is slightly more favored than High Fidelity, (an indecisive me would have given them shared first place status) and thus, when I met Nick Hornby at a book signing a couple years ago, I chose A Long Way Down for him to sign. These two books, nevertheless, are hard to beat, so, Juliet‘s third place showing is actually nothing to scoff at. It is hard to compete with novels that, for years, have grown to mean a lot more to me than they did even after I first finished them.

That said, it is important to note that Juliet, Naked has all the qualities I love about Hornby’s writing, There are many levels one can appreciate Juliet, Naked… I’ve only just begun.

Until September…