J Peters A Review
These Books Keep You Guessing
Today I am reviewing two books by the same author. The reason I am reviewing both is that they really should be read together as a package, as the story “University on Watch—Crisis in the Academy” picks up exactly where “Small Fingernails–Even Less Love” has left off.
“Small Fingernails–Even Less Love” is the autobiographical account of a student’s tumultuous relationship with another student while experiencing the beginning phases of a reoccurrence of his mental health issues, which begin to escalate throughout the book.
One really feels for Jacques, as both his love and obsessiveness for Dorothea grow, even though she already has a boyfriend and is spending a semester abroad. This obsessiveness leads to massive e-mails, phone calls and overseas gifts from Jacques, sometimes more than one a gift a day.
The book at this point turns into a mystery, which keeps you captivated as to the outcome. There are so many questions which remain unanswered until much later in the book, such as: Do Jacques and Dorothea end up together, or does Jacques’ obsessiveness become too much for Dorothea to bear? Does Dorothea remain with her present boyfriend when she returns from her semester abroad? How does Jacques cope with the onset of his mental illness?
There are also some interesting subplots in the book about Jacques’ relationships with his parents and his roommates at school, but I will not give anything about this away, nor divulge any spoiler alerts about the questions raised in the above paragraphs as it would only ruin the reading experience. And in this case, the experience is the anticipation that builds as you wait to see how these dilemmas will be resolved.
Just as in the book reviewed above, “University on Watch–Crisis in the Academy” uses the same device of not informing the reader until the very last few pages as to the answers to the questions we have been forming in our minds while reading. This really kept me intrigued.
“University on Watch–Crisis in the Academy” may utilize the same writing style as its predecessor, but the content of this biography is completely different. In this book, Jacques is about to graduate, and has applied to the school’s graduate program. He is first told that he is accepted, then later told he is denied due to his grades from a previous transcript. As in the previous book, Jacques becomes obsessive, this time not with obtaining Dorothea, but obsessed with getting into grad school. (By the way, Dorothea is also in this book, but I will not give away whether by now she is Jacques’ girlfriend or solely an acquaintance)
Unfortunately, during this same time, Jacques’ mental illness symptoms exacerbate, and he also begins to hear voices and become paranoid. All during this time, he is still convinced that he will be accepted and tries many unconventional ways to accomplish this. One of his beliefs is that this can be accomplished by words, so he invents the word Meta-Power, which he uses in writing his never ending (and never completed) paper called Contesting Admission, filled with distortions irrationalities. Another time, although very poor, he gave out $50 bills to random strangers in the hope they would help him in his quest for admission.
As in “Small Fingernails—Even Less Love,” we are left waiting to the very end of the book for the answers to these questions: Does Jacques eventually get into graduate school? Does Jacques recover from his mental illness and, if so, to what extent? What is Jacques doing today? Again, I won’t spoil the reading experience for you by letting the cat out of the bag.
In conclusion, I highly recommend both books as the writer cleverly keeps you on the edge of your seat until the end. These to me are mystery stories, but mystery stories about true life events.
Pullout: “The book…turns into a mystery, which keeps you captivated as to the outcome.”