The Kids Are Gonna Ask by Gretchen Anthony (2020. Park Row. ISBN 978-0-7783-0874-4)
My title says it all. I did not toss this novel in the trash as I did one of John Irving’s worst. I did not stop reading 100 pages in (though I should have) as I did with one of Stephen King’s worst. I soldiered on, despite my doubt at where the plot and the characters of this read were headed. I shouldn’t have plowed ahead. I should’ve stopped.
This is the tale of two adolescents who, having lost their mother to a horrific accident, and never having known their father (the family lore is that they were the offspring of a one night skiing trip/romance that took place when Bess, the mom, was in college), use modern technology (a podcast) to search for Dad. Along the way we learn that these kids ain’t starving, uncared for, unloved, underprivileged kids. No. They live with their maternal grandmother Maggie who really doesn’t know much more about Dad than the kids do. Maggie is a person of means. She has a chef who prepares all the meals for the household. Let that sink in. How in God’s name are we supposed to have any sympathy or find any empathy for two orphaned kids when they have it all, they live as One Percenters and don’t really, other than sadness over their mother’s death, have a care in the world.
This is, in a word, a terrible read. I didn’t find the plot structured or compelling. The issue of absent dads is, for sure, a real issue in modern-day America. But it turns out that Jack, the father, isn’t a deadbeat or an asshole: he was just never told by Bess he was the father of twins. The two main protagonists, the twins Thomas and Samantha aren’t endearing, or memorable, or really even crafted in a way one cares whether they find Dad or not. Same thing for every other character in the book, including the “antagonist”, Sam, a get-rich-off-the-kids-media mogul who isn’t really scary or evil or anything much other than annoying.
I stand corrected. Jack, the dad, is somewhat interesting, at least as it concerns his occupation as a charter fisherman, being a drunk, and as a lost soul. In fact, come to think of it, this would have been a much better book if it was told from his frame of reference throughout. Then, perhaps, maybe, there’s a story to captivate readers and tackle modern day issues of absent parents, privacy, and instant media.
Sadly, this book, a book I “won” during the dice game at Christmas, should have stayed in it wrapping paper.
2 stars out of 5. Don’t waste your time like I did.