by Richard Ford Burley
Mouse is a book that is never quite what it appears to be. The novel opens on a young autistic boy, the titular Mouse, attending middle school. I tend to read books without having examined the back matter, so my first impression of the book was that it was going to have a slight lean towards the literary, an exploration of life as an autistic person that would meander its way into fantasy.
In the opening chapters, the reader is introduced to Mouse’s social life and his unique perspective on the world. I enjoy stories that give me a window into other people’s lives, and this book provides a good one with some well-chosen details. I had hardly made it a few chapters into the book, however, before it… changed. It was no longer what I expected, genre wise, and once the book started changing, it never stopped.
Mouse is difficult to talk about without spoilering. The things I found interesting about it are wrapped up in details that often become the fodder for reviews. A lot of genre influences end up getting folded into this book, and somehow, rather than the whole thing turning into a convoluted mess, the evolving genre of the story adds to its clockwork charm. If you stuck a harem anime, Full Metal Alchemist, The Dresden Files, a ghost story, and a few other secret ingredients into a blender, this is what would come out the other side.
Despite my overall enjoyment of the book, it has a few hitches. Mouse, the book’s central character, doesn’t really click as a protagonist until the back half when the story stops happening to him and becomes driven, in-part, by him. While I didn’t always enjoy the in-the-moment details of the story, the overall structure kept me curious and reading up through the end of the book. Where the book really shines is in the author’s ability to wield an impressive array of tropes and get them to work together towards a cohesive ending. More importantly, Mouse subverts enough of its tropes to keep the story interesting.
Overall, I don’t regret the time I spent reading this book. It was an interesting experience. The problem with trying to turn that into a recommendation for you, dear reader, is that I’m a bit of a weirdo, and the things that tickle my fancy about a book are sometimes on the eccentric side. If you tend to read solely inside a single genre, and you’re not the sort of person to let their mashed potatoes and peas touch on their dinner plate, this book might not be for you. However, if you like me, are intrigued by the notion of putting Kraft singles and peanut butter on your pancakes alongside the syrup (try it sometime, it’s delicious), then I suspect you’ll have a good time. – Derek Wentz