Review: The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know by Brent Hartinger (Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years #1)
Russel Middlebrook is twenty-three and is feeling rather rudderless. He's keeping down two jobs (neither of which he actually loves), lives with his two best friends on a houseboat (both of whom seem to know what the heck they're doing with themselves), and engages in a hook-up every now and again (because he has needs too). His high school boyfriend, Kevin Land, returns to Seattle (but has a live-in boyfriend who is just as hot as he is), and then Russel rescues an elderly woman from drowning (who may not be much of a swimmer but turns out to be a screenwriter). Russel's got lots of questions but he doesn't have a heck of a lot of answers, but if it's one thing that he does know, it's that he's not going to stop looking for answers.
The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know is the first book in Brent Hartinger's new adult (NA) Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years series, which is a spin-off of the author's popular young adult (YA) Russel Middlebrook series. I have yet to read the latter, but this introduction to Russel Middlebrook and the rest of this kooky cast of characters has definitely made me more than curious about how everything started for him, so I'll definitely be checking the original series out. Russel is like a lot of twentysomethings in the world: he's trying to find his place in the world and figuring out what it is that he's supposed to be doing with the rest of his life. That kind of dilemma isn't exclusively his, but like people his age, he thinks it is.
It's easy to relate to Russel and the things that concern him because, if we're being honest here, a lot of us have experienced or are currently experiencing that feeling of a lack of direction or purpose, and this isn't something that only twenty-year-olds go through. That sort of feeling is something that can hit you at any age, so Russel's quest for answers as to what it is he's meant to do with himself is the kind we can empathize with. He's surrounded by extraordinary people that may make him feel ordinary, but the truth is, Russel simply hasn't tapped into his potential yet. His ex-boyfriend appears to be the only "normal" one among the characters, but you realize that he's dealing with his own indecisiveness and imperfections.
I found myself enjoying Russel and his journey to no longer remaining aimless. There's a lot of humor in the writing and the characters are quirky but not irritatingly so. Russel tells you his story and it almost feels like he's sitting right across from you while doing so, rambling from time to time and often contemplating his inner rumblings. The book isn't about what it's like to be a twenty-three-year-old gay guy feeling lost; it's about being a twenty-three-year-old individual trying to find his way in the world he lives in. The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know does have a bit of romance in it, but it is, essentially, NA fiction that speaks to more than one age group and truly felt more than "just" a love story. Four stars! ♥
Date Read: 10 August 2015
Learn more about Brent Hartinger here.