Review: Creepy + Maud – Dianne Touchell

Synopsis from Goodreads.
Hilarious and heartbreaking, Creepy & Maud charts the relationship between two social misfits, played out in the space between their windows.

Creepy is a boy who watches from the shadows keenly observing and caustically commentating on human folly.

Maud is less certain. A confused girl with a condition that embarrasses her parents and assures her isolation.

Together Creepy and Maud discover something outside their own vulnerability — each other’s. But life is arbitrary; and loving someone doesn’t mean you can save them.

Creepy & Maud is a blackly funny and moving first novel that says; ‘You’re ok to be as screwed up as you think you are and you’re not alone in that.

There is something wonderful about finding someone you know you can send them e-mails in the middle of the night full of capital letters and shoddy punctuation and even just ‘THIS BOOK’ and know that they will understand exactly what you are feeling.
Mine is Rey*.
When I saw that she had picked up Creepy & Maud and loved it, I knew that unless something drastic happened (we won’t mention this book) I will love it too.
So I read it and…. THIS BOOK.
The first chapter of this book is probably one of the most bizarre opening chapters I’ve ever read. I was reading it while I was sat on the train and a very serious looking business man reading The Times was sitting next to me and I was so conscious that he was reading over my shoulder I sort of angled myself away from him. I was so nervous that I would rather have my shoulder rammed into by the food trolley than have Serious Man see what I was reading. I mean, how do you explain why you’re reading a book where someone has pissed in someone’s shoe?
I’ll leave you with that thought.

This book is a revelation in Young Adult fiction. I’ve never read anything quite like this before and I don’t even know how to review it. As you can tell, I’m kind of dancing around actually talking about the book because it’s been about a week and I still don’t have my thoughts sorted out. I have a Kindle full of underlined words and a note pad full of sentences separated into five syllables but that’s it.

So I’ll try.

When I read the synopsis I had serious misgivings. A creepy boy using binoculars to watch his next door neighbour who is also endearingly weird as well? Urgh. The girl is obviously going to be edgy and have crazy coloured hair and listen to Indie Bands You’ve Never Heard Of and be kooky and bizarre in the best kind of way, right?
But Rey and I both have Thoughts and Feelings about those kinds of girls so when she said that Maud was wonderful, I trusted her. Kinda. Not that I doubted her but usually when an awkward boy falls in love with a girl in a book she’s so quirky and different and nooneseverbeenlikeherbeforeandthey’llneverbelikeheragain and, well, yawn.

Maud is nothing of the sort. I’m actually going to start by talking about Maud because she is glorious and she broke my heart in a subtle and roundabout way.

“I live my life through a glass darkly, waiting for the light to fascinate me”

One of my major gripes with young adult fiction is when a character gets lumped with a mental illness so they’re seen as ‘quirky’. Mental illness is not, and will never be, a quirk. Nor is it tragically beautiful. As Rey said in one of our e-mails there is no such thing as ‘tragically beautiful’. It is either beautiful… or it’s tragic. Thankfully, Ms Touchell knows this and portrays mental illness and problems absolutely brilliantly. It’s never dwelled on just to make sure you realise that Sad Things Are Happening or glorified or sensationalised. It is what it is and it’s there. And that makes it all the more poignant.

“I never know the right thing to say or think and sometimes I forget where I am and say things I should not. Or say things I would not if I took a minute to step outside my own head. I like it in here. In my head, I mean. It is other people who are worried about what is going on in there. I have decided not to come out of my head. If they want me, they can come in”.

Love-her-like-cra-zy.

But before you think that this book is just an ‘issue’ book about mental illness, it’s not at all. Just because Ms Touchell knows how to deal with “taboo” and “uncomfortable” and “edgy” topics fantastically well, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know how to write a hilarious joke.

Some books I find are trying so hard to make you laugh that they repeat the same joke over and over again until you’re at the point where you just want to bellow ‘YES. I GET IT.’ It’s almost like they tell the joke and pause, waiting for your laugh. Creepy & Maud doesn’t do that. The jokes are subtle and deliciously dark and uncomfortable and it takes them a while to sink in but when they do… I swear, my “I’m-on-a-train-so-I-can’t-belly-laugh-so-I’ll-just-snort-through-my-nose-in-the-most-unladylike-of-manners” came out so often I lost count.

Maybe I just have a messed up sense of humour, but I’m OK with this. There is a part about sandwiches after a funeral that is still making me laugh.

And that was down to Creepy, my little fruit loop. I have so much time for this boy. He’s strange and odd. The only way I can describe him is he’s not the kind of weirdo that you cross the road to avoid him… but that’s only because he’s hiding in the shrubbery watching you from afar, stroking a furless cat. No seriously.
I won’t say that Creepy isn’t, well, creepy. Because he is. He is creepily creepy. I mean, he watches a girl from his bedroom window, there is no way that won’t be creepy. Ms Touchell doesn’t make it romantic or cute but she makes it uncomfortable and strangely captivating.

Let’s put it this way, it’s more Rear Window than Taylor Swift.

“Am I sounding creepy? Love is sort of creepy. When you fall in love, you presuppose all sorts of things about the person. You superimpose all kinds of ideals and fantasies on them. You create all manner of unrealistic, untenable, unsatisfiable criteria for that person, automatically guaranteeing their failure and your heartbreak. And what do we call it? Romance. Now that’s creepy.”

I-love-you-Cree-py.
I have to talk about the writing in this book. It is absolutely stunning. I am so glad I read this on my Kindle so I could highlight to my heart’s content because I seriously think the ink in my pen would have ran out if I were to write all the quotes down in my notebook.

“But love is not rational or reasonable or logical. It is a bird’s nest made of capillary and nerve and dubious judgement.”
“From time to time, when I’m feeling sad, I draw myself reflected in his window, superimposed on him like a ghost, or a paper doll’s dress, with my gold and serpent belt. So he is looking at me and I am looking back at myself.”
“Coda: It is best to stay alert when it does not take much to make them crack.”
“At least, with blinds pulled up, she’ll get some sun. By mid-afternoon the sun will hit her window in such a way that I’ll hardly be able to see her. She’ll disappear inside refraction and glare.”

As much as I want you all to read this book, I know for a fact that some of you will absolutely hate it. This isn’t a love story. It’s a story about the love that exists in the gap between two windowpanes. You might think there isn’t a difference, but there is.

Some of you will think it goes too far. Some of you might think it’s a bit dull. Some of you might think it’s too distasteful. Hopefully, though, some of you will think it’s brilliant.

Without sounding like a cliché, I seriously think that this is an either you’ll adore it or you’ll hate it book. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ratings on Goodreads and blogs for Creepy & Maud will be evenly split. I predict that there will be lots of one star ratings and there will be tons of five star ratings. I hope there will be discussion between these two tribes, though.
(I regret nothing).
Seriously though, I think that this kind of discussion is exactly what Ms Touchell would want her story to encourage.

It’s obvious from the subject matter, the characters and the way this story is told that she’s not looking to be safe author who is universally loved. This book obviously wasn’t written for world domination but that makes me love this book even more.

Remember a few years ago when us Brits got together and rebelled against the fact that every year the same old same old X-Factor winner would get the Christmas number one? And there was a huge (and successful) campaign to get Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name to number one?
That’s what I want to do for books like this one and all the others that fly under the radar. I just want to see how many readers are out there who aren’t afraid to read something that is a bit odd and not necessarily something they’d think of reading. It’s nice to step out of my comfort zone every now and again.
I wish more publishing houses took risks like this because this is what readers mean when they say they want something “different”.

And that’s why I love reading because I want to hear these stories that are simply dy-ing-to-be-told.

*When I told Rey that the beginning of my review had basically turned into a love letter to her, she asked me to write her an actual love letter. So here you go:

To Rey,

be-my-book-soul-mate?

KISSES.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Creepy + Maud – Dianne Touchell

  1. I *adore* this review. So much. I’m so happy that you loved it.. I think we feel pretty much the same about this one. Perhaps we should start a club and we can discuss our mutual love of books that open with characters peeing in things. I love how much she pushed the boundaries with this book without being all I AM EDGY BOUNDARY PUSHER, Y’ALL. (Not that anyone in Australia says “y’all”, but you know what I mean.)

    Book-soul-mates-for-life.

    KISSES.

    • I’m so happy that I loved it too, but even happier that we share the same brain and you recommended it to me. It’s soooo beautiful and lovely. And yes, I think we really do need to start a club. Possibly the oddest club, but definitely the best.

      Wait… what? Australians don’t say “y’all”? Oh…there goes my dreams.

      Seriously though <3 lovelove.

  2. I love they way you can shoe horn an X Factor reference into a thought-provoking review Jo. Much respect.
    But this one is going on my tbr list right about NOW. Why don’t publishers take more risks like this in YA? It means everyone is missing out on food for the brain and we are all the poorer for it.

  3. Pingback: On Writing: Dianne Touchell on “Difficult” Subjects « weartheoldcoat

  4. Pingback: Review: A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell | weartheoldcoat

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