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Book Review: The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To

TEEN REVIEW | by Katie Harris

As a lifelong insomniac, it was hard to ignore the title, The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep And Never Had To, as I browsed through a bookstore on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Intrigued, I didn’t even have to open the book before I knew I was going to have to buy it. As soon as I got home, I began reading. At first, I worried that the sci-fi vibe would lose my interest, and it certainly was difficult to believe that there really could be a boy who had never slept a minute in his life, but by the time I was a few chapters into the book, I knew that it was worth finishing.

Darren, the high school-aged narrator, is an aspiring comic book artist with a wild imagination. Darren befriends Eric, the somewhat mysterious and eccentric class genius. Eric, desperate for a confidante, reveals a secret about himself that nobody else knows: it is physically impossible for him to sleep. Eric convinces the skeptical Darren, and their friendship strengthens with this secret as a building block. Together, they use Eric’s inability to sleep as an opportunity to create a detailed graphic novel, which ends up holding more depth and reality than they could have imagined.

Of course, in all best friendships there tends to be rivalry.

This rivalry occurs when Eric steals Darren’s girlfriend. Feeling betrayed, Darren reveals Eric’s secret to a mysterious and malicious character referred to as “The Man.” The Man is a creation of Darren and Eric’s imagination, brought to life by the powers of Eric’s never-sleeping mind. Darren soon regrets what he has done and tries to rectify his malevolent act by aiding Eric in his escape from The Man, which leads the two teenagers in a cross-country getaway for safety.

Unfortunately, safety becomes difficult to attain as the iniquitous forces catch up with them. By the end of the novel, Darren and Eric face a conflict between themselves and the creations of their imagination. In true science fiction tradition, a battle scene closes the novel, revealing the amalgamated power of both Darren and Eric to destroy an evil that they once thought was only in their imagination.

Author DC Pierson has created a striking work of contemporary science fiction.

It combines extra core components, including friendship, romance and humor. The novel is unlike any other book I’ve read. While parts of this book are very relatable—the high school setting, the tight friendship and the first romance—there are parts that went over my head, such as the sudden transformation of fiction to real life. However, this book should appeal to all audiences. Within it lies the classic element of true friendship and the development of a brotherly bond between two misfit boys.

PARENT REVIEW | by Jody Podl

Katie and I were in search of something off the beaten path. Katie mentioned a novel about a boy who never slept. I was intrigued, so I took home The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To by DC Pierson and thoroughly enjoyed this quirky book.

I would never have selected this novel, as I am not a fan of science fiction. However, the story blends the cyborgs and mutants into a kind of charming coming-of-age story. Pierson reminds the reader of the painful stages of adolescence with its cliques and social hierarchies. He also captures the tension that teens experience in separating themselves from their families as they try to become more independent.

We’ve all met Darren Bennet, the quiet, artistic boy who has a lot to offer but lacks confidence, and Eric Lederer, the nerd who seems to have no feelings but is actually very sensitive. These two awkward boys meet in class when Eric notices Darren’s drawings, which are the beginnings of his movie trilogy and novel series. Eric embraces Darren’s ideas and prods him to explain the plots more thoroughly. So begins a wonderful partnership, as the boys spend all of their time together developing their creation.

Enter the secret: Eric confides to Darren that he is physically unable to sleep.

Darren requires proof and attempts to stay awake to keep an eye on Eric. Ultimately, Eric ends up filming himself after Darren falls asleep, thus convincing Darren. Rather than viewing Eric as a freak, Darren is fascinated and conjures a few unsuccessful, albeit hilarious, ideas about how to help Eric fall asleep. One solution is to literally knock out Eric—and Eric even lets him.

Enter the betrayal of the secret: What causes one adolescent to divulge his best friend’s confidential information?

The girl. When Darren becomes jealous of the relationship that Eric establishes with Darren’s girlfriend, he tells “The Man”—the evil, greedy villain—about Eric’s inability to sleep, a gesture that he regrets immediately.

Enter the battle: Eric and Darren reconnect and stand tall against the forces of evil, discovering unknown strength and pow- er. Pierson’s description of this confrontation blends the best things about science fiction—strange creatures, brave heroes, and special powers—into one extraordinarily entertaining scene.

End with guilt and redemption. Both boys emerge less innocent and more skeptical as they see how others try to use Eric rather than help him. They certainly feel isolated, but they also feel strength in this very isolation.

To me, the story is about friendship. Despite, or perhaps because of all of the obstacles in their relationship, each boy unwittingly brings out the best in the other. Pierson captures the notion that friendships are certainly an antidote to loneliness, and at their best, these bonds improve each of the individuals. Darren and Eric are both better people for having joined together in friendship.

Jody has spent her life around teens, as a teacher and as a parent of three.

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