Let’s Talk Books — Like We Care

Warning: Spoilers

I picked up an interesting-sounding book from my library’s book sale not too long ago. It had a broken CD on the front, with the title Like We Care written on it like someone would label a burned CD. I read the inside flap’s description — basically a couple of angry teenagers get fed up with consumerism and stop buying stuff — and thought it would be a fun read. It was 50 cents, at any rate, so if worse came to worse I wouldn’t have really lost much except time by reading it.

And… eh. It was okay.

And that’s a little bit of an understatement. It’s actually one of the most “okay” books I’ve ever read. Right on the verge of being equal parts entertaining and boring, fun and a chore to read, interesting and non-interesting characters, etc. Even fans on Goodreads seem to be split down the middle; some of them adore it, others couldn’t stand it.

So why bother talking about it at all? After all, it’s pretty obvious I don’t have a lot to say about it, so a post dedicated to talking about the book seems a little dumb. Well many times when I finish reading a book, I look online to see what other people have to say about it. Sometimes it helps me solidify any wavering opinions or questions I had while reading it, and maybe even help explain why I felt the way I did about the book.

But when I went to go look up any kind of review for Like We Care, or even any info about the author, Tom Matthews, I found virtually nothing useful. The Goodreads comments provided more insight than anything I found elsewhere. And true, I could have spent more time looking into it; I only did a couple of Wikipedia, Google, and YouTube searches after all.

But man, this book came out in 2004. In 11 years, no one had anything to say about it? I dunno… it made me kind of sad. A bad book would have gotten more talk, which makes my feeling that this is one of the most “okay” books I’ve read really become more apparent.

So I guess I felt like sharing my thoughts on it, on the off chance someone else out there is scouring the Internet looking for someone else’s opinion on the book.

The story is basically about two teenagers, Joel and Todd, who conspire to stop buying from a local convenience store chain once they realize they’re being taken advantage of with overpriced merchandise and shitty customer service. They discover that the CEOs know they’ll keep spending money on their products no matter how much they raise the prices or how poorly the staff will treat them, and they end up boycotting the store.

The boys get a decent following going and catch the eye of Annie, a frustrated producer of sorts for a TV station that follows similar lines of thinking that the CEOs of the convenience store chain have. She catches the boys for an interview about what they’re up to, and other kids across the nation start doing the same thing. Annie wants to stick it to her company as well and eventually stages a protest against the company starring one of the boys.

Joel and Todd also plan to get one of their only respectable teachers, Frank, to run for council after seeing racial issues being ignored in a public meeting. Since most of the adults in town don’t care enough to vote anyway, Joel and Todd use their powers of influence to get the rest of the recently-turned 18-year-olds to vote for Frank, if for no other reason than to fuck with the adults.

While they make a decent impact on their respective targets for a while, the adults win in the end. I guess the main thing was that the kids proved they had a voice and could make an impact if they wanted to, but it was still a little sad to see it didn’t seem to matter much in the long run.

If you’re a fan of teenagers or other types of characters raising a fuss or outcry over not being heard, you’ll probably find something in this book to like. Same goes for people that like criticism against corporate America and consumerism. The book is more or less a critique against those things. In a way, it reminded me a lot of Fight Club, only with the volume turned way down.

There were a lot of cool ideas here, but unfortunately they didn’t always flow smoothly. For example, each chapter is supposed to focus on one of the four “main” characters: Joel, Todd, Annie, and Frank. The book is written in third person, and I’m assuming the main thing was to focus on one character’s POV at a time in the third person. However, there are many times when that POV will switch within the chapter itself to a completely separate character and it feels weird.

The dialogue itself kind of blends into the narration. In addition, this is one of those books where there’s maybe a little more narration than you’d care to read about and you wish a scene would get to its point rather than taking the long way around. The book is only 250-ish pages long, but the way it’s set up makes it feel like reading takes longer than it should. Thankfully the chapters are short, so even if it feels like it’s taking a while to get through the book, you’re almost never in a situation where a convenient stopping point is too far off.

At the end of the day, it was an entertaining read. But I’ve seen other stories similar to this before, and unfortunately this one doesn’t do anything particularly different to stand out. I’m also not exactly sure who the book is supposed to be for. It sort of falls into the gray area between young adult and adult fiction for me. More than anything else, I guess it’s for anyone who likes critiquing consumerism, as that’s the strong point of the book. As a side note, I also think it’s important to remember the book was released in 2004. References to music television, stereotypical views against rap music, and the lack of any kind of social media may make the book feel a tad dated. I’d even go so far as to say the book often feels like it takes place in the 90s.

But still, an entertaining read. Nothing to write home about, unfortunately. If you find it in the library or cheap somewhere, I’d say pick it up. But don’t hurt yourself going out of your way for it.

Info for my edition of Like We Care:

  • Published 2004 by Bancroft Press
  • Hardcover, 261 pages
  • ISBN 9-781890-862367
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