Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Review: Millions

After absolutely loving Frank Cottrell Boyce's Cosmic, I was thrilled to see another title with great appeal. Millions has an outstanding and creative premise: "It was a one-in-a-million chance. A bag crammed with cash comes tumbling out of the air and lands right at Damian's feet. Suddenly, the Cunningham brothers are rich. Very rich. They can buy anything they want. There's just one problem - they have only seventeen days to spend all the money before it becomes worthless. And the crooks who stole the cash in the first place are closing in - fast." I knew this would be an instant hit with my money-loving sons, so I set out to read it aloud.

Would that I had read it myself first!  I could have quickly edited out the things which rankle a bit. As it was, I was reading off the cuff and came upon some things that couldn't be quickly side-stepped because my brain wasn't ready to accept the idea that in a book slated for 3rd grade and up one would come upon a scene of Internet pornography. Yes - you read that right. Here I was reading along and the brothers decide to research spending the money on building wells for poor people (at least that is what Damian wants to do with the money). Before I could think to expect it and edit it out, the older brother googles another site (an underwear website) and declares they can buy the women on the site for thirty-nine ninety-nine, followed by an explanation of a "nipple" "protruding." No lie! Of course, my boys had to come running over to see where the words were on the page. They are detectives when it comes to finding bad words or concepts in a book. They must see it to believe it. I had to see it to believe it, as well. One of the final sentences in the chapter read: "Even after Anthony had logged off, I could still see her in my brain while I was lying in bed." And that's the problem with pornography for young boys and men, isn't it? The images and ideas will linger in their brains long after the initial exposure. For the life of me, I cannot understand why this was included in the book and wish I had thought more quickly on my feet as I read aloud.

Besides this unsavory bit to the novel (completely inappropriate for the listening pleasure of seven and nine year old boys), the characters in the novel are quite strange. The narrator, Damian, is fixated on saints, ever since the death of his mother. I think my boys waxed bored on several occasions when these saints were catalogued. The characters are quite odd.

Moreover, I wasn't thrilled when the author took a moment to retell the story of Christ feeding the five thousand, arguing that a saint knew the real story, which was that the individuals all reached in and pulled out their own lunches and passed the loaves and fishes along, making Christ believe he had performed a miracle when really they all had come prepared to look out for themselves. Really? I groaned aloud. Still, my boys did clamor for me to keep reading (perhaps they were hoping I would stumble into more bad territory and offer up things they knew they had no business encountering). They would say they enjoyed the book and will probably remember it for a good long time to come (if only the nipple scene).

I, on the other hand, thought it wasn't worth the read. The story held great potential, and the problem of utilizing the money was handled realistically, but in the end, I just didn't really like the tale. I didn't feel connected to the odd characters. I didn't think the ending was tremendous. It just fell flat for me and I still cannot get over the bits I felt inappropriate.

I read on the back cover that the book has been released in film version by Fox Searchlight Pictures. I wonder if the screenwriter felt it necessary to include the raunchy bit, as well. I'll be sure to watch the film first, if I ever decide to let my boys view it. After watching this trailer for the movie, however, I just might have found an instance where the movie is better than the book:

 We shall see.

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