SuburbaNights by Eric Arvin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I quite like Eric Arvin’s over the top parody Jasper Lane series but each one isn’t quite as good as the last. The first book in the series is truly original, unique and laugh out loud funny at every turn. Subsequent books, this one included, feel less original and more of the same. I didn’t laugh out loud once while reading the third book, mostly because I expected and am accustomed to the ridiculous and farcical actions of the various cast. It’s not unexpected or even surprising as parody is the norm here. That said, it’s an amusing and entertaining read even if less focused than previous books.
Back on Jasper Lane not much has changed, with the exception of a group of religious zealots moving to the community. This has several characters up in arms as they try to figure out what these strangers want while dealing with the usual inter-personal and inter-relationship drama all residents possess. Everything comes to a head on Halloween as the various different story arcs combine to a loud finish. However there are a few dangling threads left open, no doubt to be addressed in the next book.
What shines here is once again the characters. Each one is a parody and an exaggerated stereotype meant to amuse. There is no sense of reality but instead a tongue in cheek humor that laughs at itself while inviting the reader to do the same. I’d suggest reading the previous books first as the cast is large and often confusing. I’d read the other books but forgot most of the details and the third installment doesn’t re-introduce the characters but picks up where it left off. This left me floundering a bit trying to remember all the various allegiances, crimes, personality quirks, and relationships that tie all the characters together. To be honest, I didn’t remember most of the background and just ignored the aspects that were confusing or had details I didn’t recall from the other books. I mostly read for the fun of it so I could ignore the details that didn’t make sense but not everyone can do that so read with caution or read the whole series at once.
The plot has a thin thread to follow but is interrupted by various side threads that may or may not relate to the main theme. The most prominent plot line is that of the religious crazies that move to the Lane, determined to make all the gay residents straight. I found this theme to be discordant and kind of depressing. It doesn’t fit with the flamboyant theme of the community and characters. It also serves to cast doubt on one of the couples, Cliff and David, and their relationship ending is left up in the air without resolution. I didn’t particularly enjoy the scenes involving the religious nuts and thought everything was a bit too pat with the involvement of Melinda’s adopted mother. However the plot is really just a skeleton to let the characters say over the top things and act out in a wholly unrealistic manner.
There were a few other weak plots such as Cassie’s missing son, Becky’s pregnancy, and numerous seemingly random scenes of Coby and Seth having sex. These are entertaining enough as distractions but never really came together with a sense of purpose. I was left wondering what each of these had to do with each other, the overall plot, and what they were supposed to mean.
While the actual plot is somewhat disjointed and the writing has several typos, the writing always has a “laugh with me” feel. It invites the readers in on the joke and tries to make the ridiculous entertaining. Despite the problems, SuburbaNights mostly achieves this. It’s fun and super quick to read. I don’t think I’ll remember anything from it unfortunately but I liked spending time back on Jasper Lane, checking in with old favorites that never seem to change. Fans of the series should enjoy this look back into the lives of Jasper Lane residents but those new to the series should start at the top.