I grew up hearing the old adage "Do it now, there's plenty of time to sleep when you're dead" and I never gave it much thought...until now.
Coming of age meets Comic Books meets The Matrix is the best way I know to describe The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To by D.C. Pierson.
Darren, a high school sophomore, meets Eric, a fellow sophomore whom others describe as weird. Turns out they were right. Eric has a secret, as the title says, he never sleeps and he doesn’t have to.
Darren is an artist; he draws great characters out of his imagination and creates an entire universe of them. He doesn’t have small dreams of being a comic book artist; he plans entire series of books, movies, toys and more. With Eric’s help, they create monsters, villains and planets, all while Darren tries to figure out how and why Eric doesn’t sleep.
While I liked the book, there were many things in it that didn’t ring true to me. Darren’s dad is a divorced father raising his two sons. While I get that sometimes people don’t connect with their kids on a lot of levels, at no time is there any acknowledgement that the older son (a neighborhood terrorizing high school senior) has girls spending the night, is doing drugs, has been arrested or is, in general, an unsympathetic jerk. It becomes a joke to Darren that when he calls to ask his dad to do anything the response is “do you have your phone on you” (even though he is calling from that phone) as though the phone is a talisman. Eric’s parents, while more of a traditional nuclear family, don’t seem to notice that their son doesn’t sleep and periodically has to lock himself in his room because he has “bad days.” If these things had happened over a one year period, I could buy that but these things ignored or unnoticed by both Darren’s dad and Eric’s parents have been happening for years.
There is a lot of very typical coming of age “stuff” in the pages between the fantastic opening and interesting/exciting ending. Darren gets a girlfriend, loses his virginity, loses the girlfriend (to his best friend Eric), loses his best friend, gets chased by his brothers gang of friends, etc.. The parts of the story that were “normal” high school stuff were very realistic. The conversations of teens, the way Darren reacts to his first sexual experience, the kids at a party and how they interact, all of this was easy to believe.
The sci-fi/comic book sections of the story were well done. I think there was an homage to The Matrix but perhaps I am the only nerd out there who would make that comparison. Unlike many of the sci-fi classics where good triumphs over evil, Darren (more than once) sacrifices Eric and his unusual condition for the sake of his own happiness and freedom. His remorse is genuine but not overwhelming. Like life, doing the right thing is not always black and white. It is not always an easy decision. Darren discovers this and in doing so, discovers himself.