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BOOK REVIEW: Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

| 1 March 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach 

Simon & Schuster
March 2016
Paperback, $17.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Young Adult



Meet Parker Santé. He’s medium cute, bad at writing in third person, and good at stealing shit from rich people. He’s not the best person you’ll ever meet, he’s also not the worst.

I mean, some things are obviously shitty, and some things are obviously nice or noble or whatever, but between the two goalposts of black and white, between punching a baby in the kidney and donating a kidney to save a baby, there’s a freaking football field’s worth of gray area.

He’s hanging out in a hotel lobby, waiting for something to steal, when he sees her. She’s about his age, pretty, has a large wad of cash, silver hair, and wears a look of perfect sadness on her face.

People usually use that word – “perfect” – to talk about good things; a perfect score on a test, or a perfect attendance record, or landing a perfect 1080. But I think it’s a way better word when it’s used to describe something – even a totally shitty something – that’s exactly the thing it’s supposed to be. Perfect morning breath. A perfect hangover. Perfect sadness.

He doesn’t speak. Can’t speak. He sees a psychologist regularly and had one session with a speech therapist, but he just can’t make the words come out. He can’t even moan or make noise when he laughs. So he writes everything in a journal. He has 104 completed journals at home, like a record of where he’s been and thoughts he’s had.

I stopped talking after my dad died, I wrote, then prepared myself for the usual things people said after I told them that.
“What a remarkably asinine thing to do.”
This was not the usual things.

Zelda tells him that she’s waiting for a call, and once it comes she’s going to give all her money to the next needy person she sees and jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. She doesn’t say this on a whim; she’s given it a lot of thought. She means to go through with it.

There’s a word in Portuguese that my dad wrote about in one of his books: saudade. It’s the sadness you feel for something that isn’t gone yet, but will be. The sadness of lost causes. The sadness of being alive.

Thus begins his mission to teach her that there are so many things to live for, his mission to change her mind. But how can you convince someone who thinks they’ve lived for hundreds of years that they haven’t seen everything.

In trying to show her it’s worth going on living, he might just get caught up in it all and realise that he hasn’t really been living, either. And that maybe it’s time to start.


In a world of young adult novels so full of Mary Sues and Gary Stus, Wallach stands apart as the writer of realistic characters, at times so flawed you question whether you’re on “their side” or not, and gorgeous writing that keeps you reading regardless, making him a must read.

As with We All Looked Up, readers are offered a teenage narrative and an assortment of characters who feel so very authentic, humourous, and engaging that it’s hard to put the book down. From the first chapter of Thanks for the Trouble, and often throughout the story, Parker had this reader laughing out loud.

Parker’s not perfect, and he never pretends to be, unlike a lot of YA heroes. He’s honest from the second page about who he is and the things he has done. About how he skips school, and steals, and has an assault on his record. About how he doesn’t want to attend college, doesn’t have any great dreams for himself, and doesn’t really like people all that much… with a few exceptions, of course.

We All Looked Up was a tough act to follow and, though I do try my best to grade a book on its own merits, when it’s a book by the same author one can’t help but draw comparisons.

In both books, there are meta elements: an ep launched alongside We All Looked Up, and stories within the stories in Thanks for the Trouble.  In both books, Wallach deals with things that might have crossed our minds in passing, about life and death and sexism to name a few, and examines how people might react to unexpected circumstances. In both books he toes the line of shock, and at times just steps right on over. In both books he confronts the reader with circumstances they might find hard to deal with, but are undoubtedly things that human beings are capable of.

In this end, this was a challenging, confronting, and heart-warming story, and the overall message about the power of story is a fantastic one, but it was just that little bit less challenging, confronting, and heartwarming than the one that came before.

Thanks for the Trouble was a fantastic read and, while I don’t feel it will stay with me and come to mind months down the track the way that We All Looked Up has, this work has cemented Wallach on my must read list, and I impatiently await the release of his collection of original fairytales.

(Okay, so that last bit is just wishful thinking at this stage, but… C’mon, Tommy, you know you want to release a book of fairytales!)


Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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