REVIEW: Going Out, by Scarlett Thomas

going-out-thomasWhen I was in Wales this weekend, I stopped at a small bookshop to pick up something for the trip home since I had absolutely DEVOURED Kindred. I ended up with this gem. It looked quirky and painless, so I paid £1.50 for it and went on my way.

Well, it wasn’t exactly painless. That is, it wasn’t as easy of a read as I thought it would be. However, it was definitely quirky, and it made me eager to read other books by this author.

The (Spoiler-Free) Summary

Luke is a twenty-six year old guy who has never been outside. Actually, that’s not true; he ran out once when he was seven and almost died. You see, Luke is allergic to the sun. And the grass, and animal fur, and various other random things. He wants nothing more than to be free from his tiny house, but he might die if he tries.

Julie is Luke’s best friend. She’s always been a hyper-logical and strange girl, and she wants nothing more than to live a guaranteed safe life. She never takes risks, even to the extent of only eating highly processed foods so as to avoid human error or malice.

One day, their friend Charlotte puts Luke in touch with a self-proclaimed healer who wants to meet with Luke and, oddly enough, Julie. He thinks he can cure both of them: Luke of his illness, and Julie of her fear. They decide, with the help of friends old and new, to jailbreak Luke and take him to Wales to meet this healer, damn the consequences.

Spoilers ahead. Skip to my rating to avoid them.

The Good Stuff

This is, without a doubt, a fun book. The characters are fun and dynamic, and while the story focuses on Julie and Luke as far as POV is concerned it really is an ensemble affair. The minor characters are really well fleshed-out. Despite the fact that it takes place in Essex, I had Adam Driver in my head the entire time for David. Anyone else?

I also like that this book didn’t really embrace or stiff-arm theology or the supernatural. It’s fuzzy as to weather or not Wei is really a healer, yet there seems to be a lot about accepting the mysteries of life. To me, this sort of approach is far more realistic than some big moral conclusion at the end or completely dismissing any kind of mysterious possibility.

I thought that the family dynamics were really interesting: Julie mostly missing a mom, and Luke missing a dad. I’m including it in the discussion questions below, but I think it really does affect their relationship with each other, as well as with other people. I’m happy to elaborate on this if anyone wants to know more.

I also thought that the tie-in to The Wizard of Oz at the end was helpful. I don’t think I would have made that connection on my own, despite the fact that it was Wizard of Oz Week at the Blockbuster in the book.

The Bad Stuff

I thought that the book seemed a little bit tedious during the middle. The plot didn’t seem to be moving forward. Everything ended up being used, but it still was a struggle to push through at one point. It probably didn’t help that I assumed by the description that it was going to be YA, but it wasn’t.

Additionally, I did find Julie kind of hard to relate to, as much as I loved her character arc.

Lastly, was anyone else as frustrated as I was that Julie and Luke did not get together at the end? Maybe it’s just conditioning from decades of reading stories where one member of a mixed-sex friendship always falls for the other, but I was really frustrated by that, especially because I feel like it was teased a bit during the text.

My Recommendation

I would highly recommend this book. It wasn’t the super-quick read I expected, but it wasn’t overly laborious either. Take it on a weekend away, or work on it bit by bit on a commute. The chapters have breaks within them, so it could be a pretty effective commute read.

My Rating

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4 out of 5 stars

Discussion Questions: (Spoilers!)

  1. How do you think Julie and Luke’s backgrounds (being from single-parent homes) affects their relationship with each other? With other people?
  2. What do you think of Julie and Luke’s relationship and the fact that it never evolved into romance? How do you connect this fact to the previous question?
  3. What do you think of Luke’s mother’s “emotional blackmail,” as one character called it?
  4. What did this book teach you about fear and living?
  5. Do you think Wei healed Luke? Why or why not? What about Julie? What evidence do you have for this from the text?
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