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Fruit, by Brian Francis, was the first of this years Canada Reads selections I read. Partially this was so I could lend it to my mom sooner rather than later, since it’s not available in the New Brunswick library system, but it’s also the book that I was most curious about. A novel about a puberty aged boy, called “Fruit”… might this be a novel about coming out? An angsty homosexual teen drama? Nothing in the promotional material I read said anything along those lines, instead making the connection from the title to the cherry-like nipples of the main character. The tagline, afterall, claims the nipples will be as much a part of the story as the boy himself. But then again the cover of my copy is bright purple, so there was still a chance.

Peter Paddington is certainly an interesting character. He is full of worries and insecurities that I think a lot of people could relate to. Certainly at that time of life. But then again even now as an adult the new years resolutions I might make are a lot like Peter’s, and that makes him endearing. He is overweight and friendless, and wants nothing more than to be thin and popular. Or at least make a friend. And yet continually he does things that we know aren’t going to get him anywhere.

Full disclosure: As I write this, I’m sitting in bed snacking on Pringles, having skipped going to the gym today to do a group workout with the rowing team. At one point in the novel, Peter says of the athletic boys in his school, “I’m afraid of their touchdowns and last names and loud voices.” I may not be a lonely overweight 13 year old, but if you knew the guys on the rowing team you’d see why I can relate.

Despite all that, I will not say that I loved this book. It does make for an interesting read, but I was not as swept away by it as I might have been. One thing the book feels like it’s lacking is a resolution, or any cilmax, to tie up the story. It’s vaguely unsatisfying in the end, having lived with Peter and all his aspirations, to be left without any kind of happy ending or even significant event in his life.

Well, I shouldn’t say that. There is a good ending there, but I missed it. I was actually caught up in the last few pages, running along with Peter, but stumbled at the end when I missed the significance of one of the last lines. Later, my mom explained it, and I made the connection I was missing, but at the time I was a little lost. Still, it is cute. I still wonder a bit what happened to Peter, how he made it through the next few years of his life and what kind of man he grew up to be. There are, I’m sure, a plethora of coming-of-age-and-out books out there to be read, but I’ve read few to none of them so I can’t say how Fruit ranks in that particular genre, but of the three Canada Reads books I’ve read so far this year, this is (narrowly) the best of an otherwise unimpressive bunch.

Other books in Canada Reads 2009: The Outlander by Gil Adamson

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