Calvin by Martine Leavitt

CalvinCalvin: A Novel

by Martine Leavitt

Hardcover, 181 pg.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2015

Read: August 1 – 2, 2016

I realized the doctor was leaving the room, and I was talking out loud to nobody. And that’s why they want to put people on medication.

Calvin is a high school senior on the verge of graduation and a bright future. If only he had the ability to focus. He reaches a breaking point and has a schizophrenic episode, resulting in his hospitalization. His family and doctors seem supportive and caring, and at least one classmate stops by to visit, too, his life-long friend Susie.

Me: . . .You’re you’re part of it.

Susie: Part of what?

Me: Part of what’s happening to me. Didn’t you ever think about, you know, that you’re named Susie, and you’re friends with a
guy named Calvin?

Susie: I always thought my parents didn’t put much imagination into my name–

Me: I was born on the same day that Bill Watterson published his very last comic strip?

Susie: You’ve mentioned that.

Me: My gramps gave me a stuffed tiger called Hobbes I’m hyperactive and pathologically imaginative? And then, even more amazing, a girl lives two doors down and her name is Susie! Maybe once you create an idea and millions of people are loving that idea, when you get brilliance and love all mixed up like that, it makes something that has to go somewhere. It impacts reality, like a meteorite hitting Earth. Bang! I think the universe just couldn’t let Calvin go.

Okay, that’s not necessarily the conclusion that most people would arrive at given the evidence (Suzie, for example, doesn’t buy it) — but there’s something to his logic.

Calvin decides that if Watterson’s creation is what led to his problems, Watterson can fix him. To prove his devotion, he sets out on a pilgrimage that could be fatal, and Susie tags along to try to keep him safe. Hobbes tags along to . . . well, do Hobbes-like things.

This is a story about friendship, young love, the hazards of high school for the psychologically fragile, and about how a psychological diagnosis doesn’t have to determine your life and future. Leavitt writes with a lean, crisp prose that keeps things moving — even while treading emotionally rich territory.

A frequently very funny book, but I felt guilty laughing at this poor, sick kid. It was largely predictable, but satisfying nonetheless. I liked Calvin, Susie and their relationship. A sweet and imaginative tribute to Watterson and his creation.

—–

3.5 Stars

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