Review: Skipped Parts (GroVont Trilogy, #1)

Skipped Parts (GroVont Trilogy, #1)Skipped Parts by Tim Sandlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Supposedly (according to the cover on the version I selected on Goodreads) this was made into a movie. I found this so incredulous that I looked it up on IMDB. Apparently it was made in 2000 and is rated R so MAYBE there’s hope it actually comes close to this book. There are parts of this story that hinge on the main characters (especially the kids) saying “fuck you” to someone and there’s some very young kids fooling around. But Sandlin also wrote the screenplay so maybe it’s as close to the book as he wanted.

The intro to this book mentions comparisons to The Catcher in the Rye, but Sam Callahan makes Holden Caufield look like a whiny little wuss. Maybe it’s because this book came out in 1991 while The Catcher in the Rye was crazy for the 60s, but I think if kids are going to read an “American kid effed up novel” they should read this one instead. They’d be a lot less bored and the teachers wouldn’t look like such dorks for thinking Caufield was such a bad-ass.

That said, I wonder what age you should be to get the most out of this book. It’s told in a Wonder Years-like narration by a man remembering the year his family was “banished” to the middle of nowhere by their grandfather. A lot of the interesting insights come from the main character looking back. I know I can look back and think about childhood, although since this book takes place in the 1960s, there’s a bit of separation there. In the end, I think any one older than the protagonists (who are 13-14) would probably get the most out of it. And anyone younger…I’d make sure they’re real mature so they don’t get the wrong idea.

Our main character, Sam Callahan, has the world’s worst mother (with the exception of intentionally abusive mothers) who had him very young (and you find out why in a very harrowing scene) and who is responsible for getting them banned to GroVont. Sam’s grandfather is the rich owner of a carbon paper plant (how we made copies before first Xeroxes and then the internet/digital cameras/scanners made all that irrelevant) and Sam’s mother always does the opposite of what he wants. With the exception of one scene, I found it pretty impossible to have any sympathy for the mother. The analogy I came up with while stuck swimming the other day is – imagine if the Hiltons and Kadashians of the world, instead of indulging or allowing their daughters to be (by USA standards – immoral and bratty) punished them and threatened to cut off their money flow if they didn’t behave. That’d be Lydia (mom) and Caspar’s (grandfather) conflict throughout the book.

So Sam, a too smart kid that I probably would have identified with as a kid – not in the way I was treated by my parents, but feeling that all the kids around me were not up to par, is left to fend for himself in a small town where he is, if not the smartest, at least the kid with the most worldly experience. This leads him to eventually team up with Maurey, the only other kid in class who enjoys reading for fun. This leads to the title drop for the book – because these kids are very smart, they’re reading way above their level – adult books. But, back then, most (many? all?) books didn’t have sex scenes like they did today. The characters would get lovey-dovey and the book would “fade to black” so Sam and Maurey start wondering what happens during the “skipped parts”.

What follows is a series of events that reminds me of a cross between South Park and a John Waters flick in which the adults are all either idiots or wildly irresponsible around the kids and yet, given how much more untethered kids were back then (compared to everyone saying that our generation of parents hovers too much and doesn’t let kids have time off on their own) maybe this actually happened in various places?

I don’t want to give away the plot and I’d recommend you don’t check the IMDB page which gives away WAY too much (although you can probably see the twist coming a mile away – although there’s another twist that was so great and, again, out of a John Waters film) and if you’re into coming of age books (this time from a boy’s perspective), I’d recommend it. Also, if you’re into history as there are a few 1960s milestones that play a part in the book.

Trigger/etc Warnings:
-underage sexual stuff
-some pretty graphic depictions of the above – so read first or be aware before handing it to that advanced kid reader in your life.

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