Tschick (Wolfgang Herrndorf)

Tschick [literally a slang word for cigarette, at least in Austria; in this case the name of a character] is a novel by Wolfgang Herrndorf.
Finished on: 6.10.2016

Plot:
14 year old Maik is one of those kids who don’t really register and when he does, he’s perceived as weird. Like when he read that homework about his mother and her alcoholism, leading to absolute incomprehension from teacher and students alike. His class mate Tschick on the other hand registers everywhere, despite – or maybe because – rarely showing up in school, and when he does, he’s often drunk. When Maik and Tschick are the only people not invited to the birthday party of popular girl Tanja, Tschick kind of adopts Maik. And even though Maik is uncomfortable at first, when Tschick shows up with an old car and invites Maik to go on an adventure, Maik doesn’t have to think long about the empty summer ahead of him to agree to go along.

Tschick is a nice, quick read with a cool story. I don’t know exactly why it got as popular as it is, but it’s fun to read in any case.

Tschick reminded me of Microbe et Gasoil, in both the basic structure – two guys on an unsanctioned, unsupervised road trip – and in the way it has very little time for the single girl in its story that gets more than a few throwaway lines. I would have loved it if Maik had been able to see more in the girls he likes than objects for his desire, but unfortunately his inner dialogue – and it’s from his perspective that the story is told – doesn’t have that to offer.

There’s also the fact that there are quite a few fat jokes in the book, and more than one usage of “Mongos” [German abbreviation for “mongoloid”, an ableist slur for people with Down Syndrome] and not once is it challenged that maybe you shouldn’t say that. I know that many kids use that word or generally use “disabled” as a synonym for stupid, uncool, and everything bad, so it’s not unrealistic to have Tschick and Maik talk that way, but I would have felt more comfortable if at least once somebody in the text had said, “guys, it’s not cool to talk that way.”

Fortunately they don’t use it all the time and while it bothered me more than once, I was able to look past it for most of the book. And much of it is really entertaining, and it flies by, keeping you engaged and rooting for the kids. With that breezy style, its sense of humor and the story of emancipation, I can see young adults enjoying it a lot.

Summarizing: It’s nice.

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