Book Review: A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip, by Kevin Brockmeier

25 April 2014

Originally published in the April 11, 2014 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission. If you don't already receive it, sign up here to receive a bi-weekly dose of readerly goodness in your inbox.

A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip focuses on one year of Kevin Brockmeier's life: the seventh grade. This period was short but defining, a difficult year marked by rapidly changing relationships with friends, teachers and the greater world. The young Kevin Brockmeier was bullied as much by those he once called his friends as by those in higher grades; the grown author Kevin Brockmeier (The Illumination; A Brief History of the Dead) reflects on those bullies, and on the islands of kindness he found between them, as well as on the lock-ins, outings to the movie theater, trips to the comic book store and nights watching television that generally made up his life as a seventh-grader.

Brockmeier's first work of nonfiction is told in the third person--an unusual choice given the subject matter, but one that ultimately gives Brockmeier the ability to act as the observer of himself in his own past, much as he once acted as an observer of his classmates and teachers. The voice makes it easy to forget that the stories in A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip are real, not imagined--young Kevin really did pee on his sandwich to stop the mystery lunch thief from stealing his meal each day; he really did write a play about the teacher-napping of his English teacher; young Kevin's first kiss really was at a youth group meeting. And despite the tough times that Brockmeier faced as a boy, any reader can find comfort in the humor in these stories--and the knowledge that the struggling 13-year-old did, eventually, find his place in the world.

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A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip | Kevin Brockmeier | Pantheon | Hardcover | April 2014

2 comments :

  1. Oh, I absolutely can't wait to read this book. Aside from remembering it, I taught sixth grade for a while, so I know how horrifying this age can be. Definitely going to pick it up as soon as possible!

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  2. I can't imagine voluntarily going back to remember 7th grade myself (or 6th or 8th or some of 9th...), but Brockmeier does it very well.

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