As it goes with all the best books out there, The Porcupine of Truth begins in a zoo. Not just any zoo though, but one sparsely populated by any actual inhabitants (animal or otherwise), and located smack dab in the middle of a social Siberia also known as Billings, Montana. The unlikely stragglers in this no man land are Carson and Aisha, instant besties bonded through sharp banter and a mutual candid wit that begins with some ridiculously funny psychobabble of the apparently very depressed tiger. All is not exactly as it seems though and it soon becomes apparent that even Freud couldn’t analyze these two’s mess of a life. When they discover through some not so sneaky snooping that Carson’s dying, abstentee father is still hung up over the disappearance of his own dad forty plus years ago, and they might have a lead to bring him home, it seems like the perfect way to escape the seemingly insurmountable pressures in their own life. Breaking away from the traditional road trip trope that always seems to end with the guy getting his girl after a thousand mile long, passion fueled, roller coaster of emotions journey The Porcupine of Truth is a fiction tour de France complete with laugh out loud humor and surprisingly thought provoking content throughout.
The closest thing I can compare The Porcupine of Truth to is a chameleon, a slippery little book that upon first glance appears to be nothing more than fluff, wildly enteratining but lacking any real substance. But then, right at the hundred page mark where I was starting to settle with the fact that this book was hardly stellar, it did a total 180 degree turn. Suddenly it was mixing ROFL and LOL with genius level character development and so many ideas that offered fruit for thought. Sure their trip is one cliche after a next (in no world other than one wrote fictionally would two broke minors travelling across the west wind up in quite the same situation) but never have I been so happy to devour a story that takes well worn ideas and adds an extra layer of dimension to them. Carson for example is a teenage boy drawn into himself; his father has never had a role in his life, Mom retreats deep into her work as a therapist, and he really is unsure of where he fits into the world (a very John Green type male protagonist). With the arrival of Aisha though, a whirlwind of life and energy that hides deep seated troubles annd securities, his whole world flips and suddenly he wants to do more than just be alive. I know this sounds like the carbon copy of Looking For Alaska but rest assured Koningsberg takes a much less tragic route in instilling our characters with life lessons, and totally bypasses the romance aspect between them as well. That leads me to Aisha’s story arc; she is a lesbian who has just been kicked out by her ultrareligious parents. The thing I especially love about this portrayal of an LGBT character is how while the emotions behind her sexuality are brought into play, it’s less the focal point of the entire book but a force that drives questions applicable to a person at any stage in their life. Another huge shoutout goes to the supporting characters, all of whom are delightfully hilarious hot messes that nevertheless nestled a soft spot inside of me. I can’t reveal too much here (this is a spoiler free zone people!) but know that many positive mentors pop up along our main characters path to guide not only them, but us readers as well. All characters, main or supporting, seemed very real to me, with confusions every person feels, and flaws that showed just how human a talented author can make ink on paper feel.
While the characters are amazing I saved the aspect of the book that most resonated with me for last; the message. Carson and Aisha go into the book as fairly close minded people, they know what they hold true and are not looking for anyone to enlighten them on lifes great mystery. With the onset of their great journey though they’re confronted by a host of people from all strecthes of life and backgrounds that make them question the very basis of their life. At its core The Porcupine of Truth is about finding the person you’re meant to be no matter what; period, end of discussion. Whether that be embracing your sexuality, welcoming positive spirituality, or just letting your freak flag fly. Bill Koningsberg writes this kind of self acceptance so amazingly I really can’t do it justice, just know that by the end of the book a Texas sized smile was stretched across my face. Seriously, Koningsberg needs to get on his publisher ASAP about a self help book and then precede to let me know so I can be the first pre-order in line. The perfect blend of sugar, spice, and everything nice for anyone looking to come out of a raucously hilarious book with a little more knowledge of themselves in the process. It is so good that in the coming weeks I’m sure you guys will be hearing about this book as though its my civil service project to make sure everyone in the U.S.A knows about this much under hyped novel. Just read it!