Originally published 2016-08-10: A boy with a rare gift for mathematics fights his past and his present for a future he can only dream of in A Whole Lot by Bradley Wind
The Kindle Scout description for this book started out really strong: “Coming of age Rainman set in the 1980s.”
When I finally got a chance to read it, I was even more pleasantly surprised than I thought I would be. The main character was fascinating. The story was moving. And the premise promised more than other stories of its kind.
Abel Velasco calculates many things. Things like the arc of falling sycamore leaves, the duration of a dog sneeze, or the number of times his aunt might hit him. He can’t help it – he’s a savant.
It is 1982. Abel has left foster care to live with his newly found relatives. His typical teenage struggles are compounded by the complication of his savant talents.
Searching for a challenge, Abel becomes obsessed with the mysterious architecture of an abandoned mansion and strangely numbered Bible, launching his journey from suburban New Jersey to Berkeley, California and beyond.
This book started strong. I was really interested in what was going to happen to Abel, why he looked at the world the way he did, and how that was going to affect his future. I loved how much the boy knew – he was a walking, talking, ever-evolving encyclopedia of information, and learning all the things he told the other characters was a nice touch.
However, as the story reached its middle, I started to wonder why I was getting some of the details. Some of the facts, while they made sense that Abel knew them, could have been cut out. Entire plot points could have been cut out. There came a point where I started to struggle, where I skimmed, and where I wanted the story to be over.
Then everything changed again. I was excited for the last fifteen percent of the book. I wanted to know how it would all end. I wanted to know if Abel would succeed in breaking the code, if he would ever get away from his abysmal family situation, and if he would ever find a place in the world to fit.
The ending, while it wrapped up most of these points well enough, was a bit of a buzzkill. It seemed as though the author realized he had written too long a book, so he wrapped it all up as quickly as possible to avoid it going any further. I felt a little like the rug had been jerked out from under me.
A Whole Lot by Bradley Wind gets three of five stars for engaging me, teaching me, and entertaining me, even if the middle and the end weren’t spectacular. A good read for anyone interested in autism, savants, math, or the exploits of a thirteen-year-old with a peculiar way of looking at life.
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I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.