Saturday, January 15, 2011

The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni

Remember when geodesic domes were cutting edge? You don't see or hear much about them anymore. Sebastian Prendergast lives in one. His grandmother took him in some eleven years ago when his parents died. Their dome on the outskirts of a small town in Iowa is a weekend tourist attraction, and Simon's job is to man the gift shop. Because his Nana is a die-hard devotee of R. Buckminster Fuller, Sebastian has learned plenty about the man and his philosophies. Indeed, Nana seems to expect Sebastian to follow in Fuller's genius and do something very big with his life on Spaceship Earth. Poor Sebastian doesn't get out much, which is not a natural condition for teenagers. Thus begins The House of Tomorrow (Amy Einhorn Books, 2010)by first novelist Peter Bognanni.

Sebastian gets booted out into the world when Nana gets a tad manic following a hospital stay. Bunking in with one of the families who recently visited the dome, Sebastian gets a taste of non-dome life, including various junk foods, punk music and church. He becomes buddies of sort with seventeen year-old Jared, a moody, sarcastic, chain-smoking heart transplant patient, and also develops his first crush on Jared's sister, Meredith. Jared presses Sebastian to take up the bass guitar. Together they form a hasty punk rock band they name The Rash. Hilarious!

Bognanni's writing is so tight, I can see this as a screenplay, something along the lines of What's Eating Gilbert Grape? Without being too obvious about it, the bone structure of this quirky novel's development follows the classic Hero's Journey blueprint. Sebastian slays many dragons and emerges on the brink of young adulthood. All the characters are well-developed. This is not just about teens, nor is it written for teens, although certain teens would surely enjoy it. The House of Tomorrow reaches across generations, displaying underlying human frailties and foibles in dark comedy. You don't have to like punk music to hear its rhythms and nod your head to its offbeat sounds. I might not have picked up this book were it not for my TLA Lariat duties. I'll be chuckling over it for months to come.....

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