Book 52: The Boy Detective Fails – Joe Meno

The Boy Detective Fails - Joe MenoThis is the story of Billy Argos, the boy detective. The way the book is put together is fascinating and reminded me a lot of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The chapters start at 31 and there are random pages with word formations or small paragraphs which was a bit annoying, but it added to the quirkiness of the book. Perhaps the most intriguing/annoying thing was the hidden message along the bottom of the pages. I of course had to figure it out because it was driving me nuts. The coded message is after the jump, but I didn’t decode it and left out a bit so you have to read the book yourself to find out. I did follow the instructions and we’ll see what happens. Update: After having emailed the address and then googling the email address I found they no longer respond 😦 Apparently you received another coded email and if you broke that code some stickers.

Although the premise of the novel is sad, Billy’s sister commits suicide and he spends the next ten years in a mental institution, the overall book is about growing up and the innocence of youth. Of all the characters, Meno writes best about the young and their interpretations and views of the world. From the affable childhood geniuses Effie and Gus Mumford to the kleptomaniac Penny Lane, Meno’s characters are memorable and relatable. And it is all of the characters childish innocence/youthfulness which makes the novel so special, especially the ‘villains’ who are growing old and perhaps going insane, but more importantly trying to find friendship and meaning in the world regardless of where it comes from.

The only thing that truly bothered me was the fact that he doesn’t have a cardigan on or an own on his tie on the cover of the book. It’s a small detail, but you’d think when they talk about it that much in the book they’d be sure to check it. Overall I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t anything special, just another fun summer read! Definitely check out the quotes for some interesting views on the world, the future, and growing up.

Quotes from The Boy Detective Fails
“Perhaps Effie Mumford was only trying to prove something she already knew: that, like all animals, she was at the whim of the general disorder and unimaginative meanness of the world surrounding her.” (46)

“It is as if the world has lost all its manners and meaning. It is as if people have lost their minds. It is as if we are adrift in a glowing asylum hurtling through the darkness of space and there is absolutely no escape.” (68)

“Why is a mystery so terrifying to us as adults? Is it because our worlds have become worlds of routine and safety and order the older we’ve grown? Is it because we have learned the answer to everything and that answer is that there is never a secret passageway, a hidden treasure, or a note written in code to save us from our darkest moments? Why are we struggling so hard against believing there is a world we don’t know? Is it more frightening to accept our lives as they are than it is to entertain a fantasy of hope?” (129-130)

“We allowed ourselves, for one brief moment, to believe in something we could not see.” (298)

“The boy detective thinks, The only thing all men have in common with one another is their inherent capacity to make mistakes. He reasons, But there is wonder in the attempt, knowing we are all destined to fall short, but forgoing reason and fear time and time again so deliberately.” (308)

Secret Message
Qrerx’f Frperg Nqiragher

Guebhtu gur pybhql raqf bs uvf ovabphynef, Zvqfuvczna Qrerx Netb, ba jngpu, pnhtug fvtug bs n funcr nzvqfg gur hapunatvat fcrpgnpyr bs gur uvtu frn.

N tubfg fuvc!

Jvgu vgf tevaavat Wbyyl Ebtre naq vgf znva fnvy synccvat yvxr n ubjy, Qrerx dhvpxyl fvtanyrq gur pnyy gb nynez. Ohg va n synfu, gur tybjvat irffry unq nyernql qenja nsg naq vauhzna unaqf jrer hcba uvz dhvpx. Orsber Qrerx pbhyq jnea uvf fuvczngrf ur jnf obhaq gb gur vaivfvoyr znva znfg bs gur qnfgneqyl irffry, xvqanccrq!

Gur tubhyf tngurerq nebhaq ernql gb cyhaqre gur hafhfcrpgvat fuvc, gurve fnoref naq tbyq grrgu ybbxvat srnefbzr. Qrerx, oenir naq gehr, pybfrq uvf rlrf naq ortna gb juvfgyr n qnevat zrybql, juvpu oebxr gur phefr bs rnpu bs gurve tubfgyl vzcevfbarq urnegf. Gur cvengrf, abj yvxr qbirf, sryy gb gurve xarrf, naq gbtrgure, jvgu Qrerx unccl ng gur uryz, gur fuvc qvfnccrnerq vagb gur punezvat sbt bs gur frn.

Naq guhf raaf bhe uvqqra nqiragher—nfghgr ernqre, vs lbh unir znqr vg guvf sne, cyrnfr fraq na r-znvy sbe n frperg fhecevfr!


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