Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Half-Life of Planets by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin

A book that's a version of "He Said, She Said," The Half-Life of Planets is told in chapters that alternate between the perspective of Liana, a science-minded girl who is dismayed at having been called a slut, and that of Hank, a talented guitarist who happens to have Asperger's syndrome. The characters meet in the hospital's ladies room, where Liana is licking her wounds while waiting for her father to get some test results when Hank bursts in (by mistake, obviously) because he's spilled an energy drink in his crotch. As "meet-cutes" go, it doesn't actually get much better than this, really.

Liana and Hank meet again at the snack machine, and strike up something that looks like a friendship - or maybe a flirtation. Liana thinks Hank is merely intense and broody (a classic musician stereotype, if you will, and one that she digs), whereas Hank can't help noticing Liana's breasts. Oh - and he notices that Liana actually talks with him, an experience that Hank isn't quite used to. When you can't read social cues well, it can be hard to figure out how people expect you to react and interact, after all.


The thing is, this book is more than just a fledgeling friendship between these two somewhat damaged individuals - Hank and Liana both have family issues involving a dead family member. Hank has a charismatic but substance-abusing older brother who has a way with the ladies to contend with, as well as a single mother who works too many hours; Liana has a hypochondriacal workaholic father and guidance-counselor mother who refuses to talk about problems at home.

And then there's the big issues that neither Hank nor Liana want to bring up at first. It takes a while for Hank to tell Liana that he has Asperger's, you see, and he's worried about how she'll react, even while knowing that he can't not tell her. And Liana hasn't told anyone about the note she found in her locker on the last day of school, the one-word note that makes her question everything about herself - the one that says "SLUT". Not to mention the fact that the two of them are becoming rather attracted to one another, and Liana has promised herself that she won't kiss anybody all summer.

The book will make you laugh aloud in many places (for instance, as Hank considers the propriety of thinking about Liana during masturbation), and is guaranteed to cause you to cringe as well as Hank and Liana sort out what they are, both to themselves and to each other. Expect plenty of talk about music (in part because it's Hank's obsession, although Liana's parents happen to have a rather large collection of classic rock on vinyl in their basement) and plenty more about the science of outer space, since Liana is taking a summer AP course in Advanced Planetary Science. It is also quite possibly the best book involving a KISS tribute band that I've ever read.


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1 comment:

Justin Colussy-Estes said...

I met the authors when they were on the book tour last year. They are great--especially Brendan, he's really funny and down-to-earth. Their talk about the book led me to pick it up when I otherwise might have passed it over. I really, truly enjoyed it.