Return to Augie Hobble
RETURN TO AUGIE HOBBLE by Lane Smith follows Augie Hobble, a young man who has some attention problems and whose family runs a fairy tale theme park full of strange goings-on. It's a nice setup, the conflict rather immediate and compelling: Augie is having trouble with bullies and having trouble in school. Plus, he's not alone --- his best friend, Britt, is also being bullied, and Augie struggles with whether to stand up for himself or for his friend.
While RETURN TO AUGIE HOBBLE is full of potential, I think that the potential is mostly unrealized. The writing is charming enough and the characters are interesting, if a bit predictable. Augie's voice is interesting, smooth, a little bit twisted and funny; and the setting is certainly entertaining and original. However, the plot that weaves it all together is a bit of a mess and the work as a whole suffers from a lack of direction and momentum.
There are a few quite poignant moments that Smith works into the book, along with some stunning visuals and funny scenes and lines.
I felt like RETURN TO AUGIE HOBBLE couldn’t quite decide what it wants to be. It starts out with Augie having to work on a replacement Creative Arts project after failing on his first attempt. Augie bounces around a huge number of ideas that would pass, but he doesn’t have the confidence to choose one. The book takes a rather abrupt and tragic shift, though, without any real warning. And another. And another. From bullying and school to werewolves and government conspiracies to death and grief and guilt to ghosts and finally back to bullies, with a few daring-dos thrown in for good measure, the book quickly loses sight of what it was trying to do.
Not that the different styles and focuses are bad. There are a few quite poignant moments that Smith works into the book, along with some stunning visuals and funny scenes and lines. But for all the marks it hits, it misses more. For all the humor and charm, it's cut and limited by confusion and jarring shifts. Plots that had been simmering throughout the book suddenly flare and die only to be replaced by completely new ideas. It's like the book is mirroring Augie's inability to focus on any one thing. That would be an interesting way to read the story if it were intentional, but as it stands, there's nothing to suggest that the book is meant to be read that way. Instead it comes off as more unpolished, more accidentally garbled.
Really, RETURN TO AUGIE HOBBLE is a book with a lot going on. Some of it is compelling and done well, but too much is too confusing and muddied to provide much of a satisfying reading experience. There is fun to be had in reading RETURN TO AUGIE HOBBLE, but I found the jumbled style to be more distracting than captivating.
Reviewed by Charles Payseur on May 12, 2015
Return to Augie Hobble
- Publication Date: March 28, 2017
- Genres: Youth Fiction
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Square Fish
- ISBN-10: 1250090539
- ISBN-13: 9781250090539