Travis is a basketball player who knows he has to work hard to achieve what he wants. He trains every weekday morning with his best friend, Creature, doing basketball drills. Travis lives with his grandparents in a small trailer park, where his grandmother is slowly losing her battle with cancer. Travis grew up watching his mother shoot heroine in countless grubby motel rooms, flashbacks of which are intertwined with the present storyline. One day, Travis notices an athletic girl who has moved across the lake from him and the two of them slowly build a love story. When everything in Travis' life begins to take turn for the worst, he not only realizes that you can't control what life throws at you, and sometimes you just have to accept it, but also that he may have to change his lifestyle in order to have the successful future he dreams of.
I enjoyed this story. It opened my eyes as to just how rough some people have it, and it really made me check my privilege. The characters in this book make you realize that you never know what someone is going through, so you should never pass judgement based on what you see on the surface.
I thought that Travis was a very interesting character and a good narrator. He was a good person at heart, but had been dealt a bad hand in life from the start. His relationship with basketball was touching to see; he's been through more as a teenager than many people go through in their whole life, yet he could still remain somewhat optimistic because of basketball. Although I don't know much about basketball, I could tell that he was extremely passionate about his sport. The author did a good job of describing how focused Travis became when he was in the middle of a game. Travis also had interesting little quirks about him that I enjoyed, like how he challenged himself to sleep outside 100 nights in a row for now reason in particular. He was a very selfless character; he was constantly worried about his Grandma, and was always making sure she was alright, and even released the two caimans into the nearby lake just so she would have an interesting last summer. He saved up all of his money and went around town looking for his homeless mother so that he could give her his earning to start a new life. Seeing all of those good qualities in Travis and then seeing the bad things he'd done (like going to youth detention center for punching a boy in a basketball game, punching a Seventh-day Adventist, and punching the doctor who gave the bad news about Creature) is what made Travis such a complex character. As a reader, we know that the things he did are not acceptable, but the author makes us understand Travis' backstory so that we almost feel that his actions were completely warranted. This will make me think twice when I assume that someone is just a "bad kid" because there is surely more to the story than that.
The romance was enjoyable, but Natalie seemed a bit dull and underdeveloped to me, and at other times she was very dramatic and insensitive; it never really explained why Travis liked her so much besides her attractiveness, but in the end, I didn't mind her character and was happy that Travis could find joy through her.
Creature was one of my favorite characters in this story. He was smart and witty, and always passionate about what he was doing, whether it be writing or playing basketball. It was also nice to see an athletic character who was complex and not just a stereotypical flat, jock character. He was not only extremely skilled at basketball, but was intelligent and imaginative with his writing as well, and you usually do not get to see athletes portrayed that way. I loved the relationship between Travis and Creature; they had a very understanding dynamic about them. They always seemed to easily pick up on each other's feelings, and they read each other well
The writing in "This is the Part Where You Laugh" could be sudden and choppy at times, which perhaps was intentional, but it could get quite distracting. It took me a while to get into this book. I usually quit a book if I'm not completely enjoying it by 50 pages in. I had surpassed 50 pages in this book and still wasn't quite sold, but kept reading because I felt that it had good potential. Although it was a bit slow at first (I don't think I was completely immersed until about 90 pages in, and perhaps most of the blame for this goes to the plethora of basketball lingo that I had a hard time keeping up with), and even though I had a few qualms with the writing, I'm really glad I stuck with this book. I loved the plot, characters, and morals. I would recommend this book, and maybe you'll be more easily intrigued than I was at first if you enjoy basketball.
This Is The Part Where You Laugh: A Book Review
Jan 30, 2017
A quick review of Peter Brown Hoffmeister's young adult novel.