I am beginning to see the potential for Andrew Smith to become one of my favourite authors. I sometimes find myself in a bit of a reading rut, where all of the narratives bleed into one and the characters start to feel somewhat the same. It’s sadly inevitable in a trends based book market. But Andrew Smith’s work exists outside of that.
100 Sideways Miles is about Finn Easton, the epileptic boy who sees the world in miles rather than minutes. He has heterochromatic eyes and a scar on his back that looks something like this :|:
Finn’s dad wrote a book about angels who invaded the earth, scars exactly like Finn’s own on their backs from where they removed their wings, the evidence of their true nature. The angels also happened to be cannibals. The book was pretty popular and very controversial among religious types, so when people see Finn’s scar they tend to freak out. He doesn’t take his shirt off much.
The main character in his father’s book is also called Finn. His father says they aren’t the same person, but Finn isn’t so sure. In fact he’s pretty certain that he’s trapped inside of his father’s book, his whole future mapped out for him.
What I like about Andrew Smith’s writing is its unflinching study of human character. Finn Easton is an angry kid. After he has a seizure he wakes up and tells the world to fuck off. He even wishes that he would die sometimes. He’s in love with a girl called Julia, but he doesn’t feel grown up enough to have sex with her yet. He feels highly inadequate compared to his best friend Cade Hernandez, who seems like he has everything figured out.
It’s much harder for kids with disabilities to feel like they can take control of their lives. In Finn’s case, with his seizures, there is a genuine danger that he could do himself serious damage if left alone. He can feel his family watching him constantly, checking and worrying and waiting for the next seizure to come around. And it always does. You can see why he would feel his life had already been determined for him.
It was interesting for me to read this one. My brother has epilepsy, and I am forever trying to make sure that he doesn’t have to feel the burden of our mum and I worrying about him. I know that he probably does anyway. Sometimes when you look after somebody you get into the habit of thinking of their disability as you experience it – as the person doing the caring – so it was good for me to spend some time thinking about the experience of actually having the thing.
As much as I enjoyed it, the book wasn’t without issues. I would have liked to get more of a sense of Julia, Finn’s girlfriend. She’s a rape survivor, which is brought up once then never again. Finn tells us that the boyfriend responsible is beaten to death in prison, but this information doesn’t seem to have any effect on the actual story. I had such an in depth sense of Finn and the issues he had to deal with, the lack of development of Julia was particularly noticeable. It also seemed to me as if their relationship happened very quickly, so much so that I didn’t have the opportunity to get as invested as I might have liked before Julia was leaving again.
100 Sideways Miles is an interesting read. It’s pretty preoccupied with death, but that’s unsurprising considering it’s about a kid with a serious illness whose mother was crushed by a falling horse when he was only a toddler. Finn Easton is definitely a boy you’ll want to spend time with.