All About Lulu is so good that I am willing to forgive its author, Jonathan Evison, for being a little coy with the reader. This is saying a lot. Next to adverbs and Chuck Klosterman, coyness is my biggest literary pet peeve. But what Lulu lacks in upfrontness she sure makes up for in humor, emotion, and, as odd as it sounds, honesty.
All About Lulu is less about Lulu and more about William Miller (not the “Almost Famous” William Miller but nearly as nerdy) and his obsession with her. Lulu is Will’s stepsister who joins Will’s family after his mom dies and his body-building dad marries Willow, Lulu’s mom. Will was having a tough go of it after losing his mom, his only ally in the family, until Lulu comes along.
In Lulu he finds a kindred spirit, another vegetarian in the land of meat-eaters. He and Lulu grow close, so close they even develop their own secret language consisting of code words, blinks, and clicks. But then all that goes to hell when Lulu goes away to cheerleading camp when they’re fifteen. When she returns Lulu cuts Wil out of her life and takes to cutting and other self-destructive behavior. Thus, William’s obsession begins.
But, thankfully, this obsession is only one of the threads that run through the novel. Basically this is a book about William Miller and the things that happened in his life. It might sound like a yawner, but it’s so not yawn-worthy at all. Will has an original and engaging voice. While Evison, the author, is coy about what happened to Lulu that summer choosing to dance around that information until a sort of climax, William, the character, is honest to the point of it being nearly painful. And it is awesome.
William is a great, great character filled with despair and hope and bitterness. He has all those things that make characters so endearing and memorable.
And the scenes! Did I mention the scenes?
Picture if you will, a puny American vegetarian kid at the Mr. Olympia pageant(?) in Sydney oiling up his dad for competition. Picture four teenagers driving out to the dessert where the concrete dinosaurs live, drunk on cheap rum, three of them in love with Lulu. Picture a hot dog as a transcendental experience. Picture a crazy, mixed up family that grows apart and comes together and apart again.
Through it all is William Miller, flawed, loving, scared William Miller. He’s just like us and nothing like us all at the same time, which might be why reading his story is so damn engaging.