Usually when a book has a title like The Christmas Sweater it's either a kid's book or it's supposed to be ironic. Glenn Beck's novel is neither of these things. Glenn Beck is Serious Business.
But really, the title is just the beginning.
This book is awful. It is absolutely the most resoundingly awful book I have ever read. The Christmas Sweater leaves L.A. Candy so far behind in the dust that I have no choice but to proclaim it the new Nameless Horror. It stinks. It reeks to high heaven. It is cheese-coated narm with extra cheese. WHY JESUS WHYYYYYY????
The Christmas Sweater tells the totally lameass story of twelve-year-old Eddie, who wants nothing more for Christmas than a red Huffy bicycle with a banana seat. But his father recently died of cancer and his mother has to work four jobs to make ends meet. Instead of the bike, he receives a hand-knitted sweater that his mother had worked very hard on. Naturally, Eddie is an ungracious little brat who throws the special handmade gift into the corner of his room right where his mother can see it. (It's a real woobie scene.) Don't you just love this kid? So then they go to his grandparents' farm where he just acts even more miserable until his grandfather feels sorry for him and convinces his mother to take him home even though she's too tired to drive. And then they get into a car accident and his mother dies. This sends Eddie into High Octane Emo Mode. He goes to live with his grandparents and is determined to make them as depressed as he is.
Grandpa looked stunned. I went for the knockout punch. "Mom would still be alive if it wasn't for you making us leave that day."WAAAAAAMBULANCE! I NEED A WAAAAAAMBULANCE!
Now it was Grandpa's turn to be speechless. I sensed his vulnerability and it made me even stronger. "You can go to church all you want, but none of the people there are really happy, so stop your preaching. Stop telling me how great things are because 'Jesus loves me,' and how happy we are because 'God is with us' and how 'we're the perfect little family.' It's all a lie." I was virtually shouting now. "Do you know why it's a lie. Because there is no God. Jesus doesn't love you. Jesus doesn't care." (192)
Jesus Christ Almighty, I hate this kid. Yes, this sentimental Christmas tale inspires much hatred indeed. Feel-good holiday story EPIC FAIL.
You've probably guessed by now that there's this big redemption scene at the end and you're right. Except it doesn't count because on page 255 we find out the whole thing, beginning with his mother getting killed, was just one big fracking dream. In other words, the Very Important Lesson doesn't count because none of it was real. So do Eddie's friend Taylor and his family exist or not? What is this subliminal existential horror I detect?
Here's what I would do: if your whole life is going to be one big fracking dream, why not make it an awesome dream? Now it is mentioned twice that Eddie has a Star Wars bedspread. So you know how Eddie the narcissist just dwells in the past and wallows in his Wangst and feels real powerful when he makes the people who love him really sad? This is exactly how the Dark Side of the Force works: "YOUR HATE MAKES YOU POWERFUL." I say we turn The Christmas Sweater into a Star Wars story in which Russell, the mysterious neighbor Eddie confided in, turns out to be a Sith Lord intent on seducing the whiny little emo to the Dark Side so that he could avenge himself on . . . uh, everybody, I guess. And we can have epic lightsaber duels and humongous space battles with X-wings and TIE Fighters and the Death Star and a Borg cube.
Yessss. . .
Instead we're stuck with a heavy-handed preachfest that inundates the reader with homily after homily and lecture after lecture. And I haven't even gotten to the Decade Dissonance (The Christmas Sweater is supposed to take place in the '80s but it feels more like the '50s), the Great Stock Character Convention, or the Wannabe Wasteland ripped off from T.S. Eliot. Apparently this book was at least partially ghostwritten (there are two other authors credited on the Amazon page) but -
Hi. I'm a disabled veteran of the Great War. I have no eyes no ears no mouth no nose no arms no legs and no insurance. I don't understand why you get angry about all the trillions used to bail out Wall Street when you don't care about all the little guys like me.
I DON'T CARE??? WHAT DO YOU MEAN I DON'T CARE I JUST REVIEWED A HEARTWARMING BOOK ABOUT A CHRISTMAS SWEATER I SWEAR I'M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND TODAY! GET OUT OF MY REVIEW! GET OUT OF MY REVIEW YOU LITTLE PINHEAD GET OUT OF MY REVIEOJLLD
Nice going there, Joe. Really, nice going. Lord knows what horror she'll put us through now. . . Maybe that novel by Bill O'Reilly with the creepy shower- sex scene. . . *dies*.
Glenn Beck has written a a thriller! And it sounds AWESOME! (But seriously, Matthew Erwin deserves some kind of award.)
Note: The Sith half of the before/after pic comes from overdrivezero on DeviantArt.
The Horrible Dare Challenge is hosted by Rayche and TY. The three following Horrible Books must be read and reviewed (snarkily) by September 21, 2010:
L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad
Hush, Hush by Rebecca Fitzpatrick
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Coming Up: Joe and Karega review Shiver. (I was going to have them review The Christmas Sweater too but then I realized that required a level of political snark well beyond my capabilities.) I have another project in mind for Hush, Hush.