“And that’s when I understood what Miss Farthingdale had meant… We don’t have a future in English because there’s no such thing. It was just like she’d said. We liked to imagine we could reach out and touch it, hold it in our hands… because that’s what let us believe we were in control, but we could never be, because that could never happen. Because the future dies at our touch.”
Ostrich, Matte Greene’s debut novel, follows Alex, a brilliant teenaged boy with a brain tumor, and his struggles to connect the reality of his life-threatening illness and it’s effect on those around him. To make matters worse, Alex has begun to develop a crush on one of his classmates, Chloe.
Alex has a very short nature with people; whether it’s pranking unsuspecting schoolmates on the bus or assuming his parents are getting divorced (he only asks upfront after several months of spying) he makes it clear that he prefers to watch people as opposed to getting involved. While I enjoyed the book overall, I didn’t care much for Alex or his behavior, even given his circumstances.
However, I was touched by the effect that Alex had on others (which is slowly but eventually revealed towards the end of the novel); from the mysterious actions of his parents, to a doll that makes him question his friendship with Chloe, Alex begins to discover that it’s not so bad getting to people, while some questions are better left alone.
I also enjoyed learning along with Alex- particularly, his revelation about the future had a profound effect on my own opinions of life. Since the story is told from Alex’s perspective, the reader is introduced to the (rather astounding) slew of information that Alex has collected. Random facts, a pornography researching stint, and Google search list that reminds him to look up everything he doesn’t yet know, are merely excerpts from what goes on in the mind of this 13-year-old character.
Ostrich is a sobering read for young adults and adults alike, and especially those who have experienced grief- the death of loved one, the death of a dream, disappointment, heartbreak- this novel will surely challenge your outlook on life and first impressions of others. This is a story about things that are not really as they seem to be, and a boy who takes some time figuring this truth out. – Brandy Burgess