Californium, by R. Dean Johnson

17 Jul
californium r dean johnson

3 of 5 stars

So keep in mind that 3 stars means “I liked it.”
But I didn’t love it. And it took me an incredibly long time to read it because I had other things I’d rather do.

I think the author has a good concept, and I like what he was trying to do, and I love how a lot came together with science in the end. But getting there was kind of a long, slow drag.

Initially I was all in with this book; I went to high school in NoCal in the 80s, and went to college in SoCal also in the 80s. The bands, the music, the clothes, the neighborhoods, the lifestyle — the shopping at Miller’s Outpost (!!!), it was a great step back into a time that I really loved. And I loved that it highlighted how a band (or any entity) becomes a legend. The rise of Dik Nixon in the book was fascinating and just inside the line of believability.

But there were so many things that took too long to uncover, and so the first two thirds was mostly a kind of very benign YA novel. It went on so long I wondered if we were ever going to get answers about Uncle Ryan or what’s up with Treat and his family. I wish I could have known any of the three teen girls a bit better. Once we did start getting answers, so much more could have been done, if we’d gone deeper into those characters we could have had a solid book. But instead it focused on the band, and although I do understand what the author was going for, I just don’t think it quite got there.

Thumbs up for the very real characters of Reece’s parents, and I think the character of Keith was great. I also give it several personal points for making the periodic table such a big part of this book – that damn periodic table had a great impact on the start of my own high school life, an impact I won’t get into but it was enough that the focus on the table here made sense to me.

Do I recommend this? Hmmm. If you are a teenage boy, yes. If you grew up in the 80s and want to check this book out, I say give it a go. I genuinely hope you enjoy it more than I did. I’m not sure I would go out of my way to recommend to anyone else.

Thank you very much to Penguin First-to-Read for allowing me a copy for review.

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