Caution: Read Carefully Before Attempting to Read Blink and Caution

Before I begin, I want to highlight what my personal perspectives on literature are. For me, Literature provides an escape from this world and this life into another. Fantasy, science fiction, the highly impossible, and the extremely improbable are where my personal preferences and comforts lie. At the end of the day, and after watching news filled the with fear and hate and suffering that exists in our world, the last thing I want to do is read a book about the fear and hate and suffering that is occurring in our world. All that being said, I have greatly enjoyed the assigned texts for this course, especially The Shore Girl, and The Crazy Man. It is my opinion that it is the admirably high quality of writing that makes up these texts that allows their societal themes to easily overcome my personal literary preferences.For me, the vocabulary, imagery, and narrative structure are some of the devices that have allowed these previous texts and their more gritty themes to be so well received.

    Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones did not overcome my personal preferences.

To begin, I felt the characters were shallow and unbelievable. Brent’s personal choice to use the nickname, “Blink,” seems to have no grounding in the character whatsoever. Brent is apparently unaware of his excessive blinking, and the excess blinking only comes to the attention of the reader when it is pointed out by other characters such as Kitty and Brent’s step father. Why have a character use a deliberate nickname if they have no relation to that name, especially when that name is an action that the character denies doing when confronted about it?

Kitty’s choice of nickname is slightly more understandable, but no less ridiculous. The connotations of the nickname, “Caution,” make sense for Kitty, who sees herself as a dangerous person after the accident with her brother. However, despite what it says in the afterward that the author’s friend experienced a similar tragedy to Kitty, this entire 342 page book was written for the sole purpose of utilizing the one line “She has thrown Caution to the wind, she thinks, and laughs.” (172) The double entendre of this line about Kitty giving up her alternate identity, as well as Kitty becoming willing to take risks, is playing entirely off of the capitalization of “Caution,” and is incredibly cliche. The line itself is so cliche it could be right off of a motivational cat poster. I felt nauseous just writing the quote for this blog.

Even without the nicknames, I was unable to read more than three pages of this book at a time due to the narrative voice and perspectives used in this novel. For reasons that were never made clear to me, everything written from Brent’s perspective was inconsistently written in the present second person, while everything from Kitty’s perspective was written from the present third person omniscient perspective. Why has it been decided that the reader is Brent, but is not Kitty? And why does Brent’s narration switch to the third person some of the times that Brent criticizes himself. The second person narrative style is known to be the most ineffective style of narration because it prescribes traits, qualities, and decisions to the reader. This can cause the reader to reject the actions and personality of the character because it is different from the reader. I did reject Brent as a character because, while the personality and actions were Brent’s, they were not my own. Further, the second and third person narrative styles only become jumbled and confusing ad down right annoying to read once the two characters are present together, causing the narration to bounce back and forth.

One thing that I did think was clever was the metaphor of an angry sea captain as Brent’s anxiety. I felt it accurately described the feelings associated with an anxiety attack. However, the captain simply vanishing instead of coming under the control of Brent seemed improbable to me. Something like anxiety, especially the anxiety felt by Brent, would have taken time to master.

Also, to me, the (almost) sex scene seemed forced and unnecessary to me. I understand that it could have been structured around he release of stress from putting the ordeal at the cabin behind them, but it seemed to me that their relationship was already cemented in their shared experience. Further, their relationship followed the cliche foil of disliking each other, working together for necessity, saving each other from danger, becoming close due to the shared experience, hook up, and then become a couple. its the same in any action movie where the action hero gets the damsel in distress in the end.

Now, I included the details about by personal reading preferences at the beginning in order to demonstrate that my dislike for this novel began with my personal preferences of reading material. Readers with different preferences and perspectives may have different feelings about this text, and I look forward for the chance to see this novel from another perspective.

On a whole, I did not enjoy reading poor narration and over used cliches about the issues of troubled teens and the adventures that their poor choices and/or circumstances take them on. If I want a story like that, I’ll listen to the grumblings of the halls of my local junior high school.

-Ryan

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4 thoughts on “Caution: Read Carefully Before Attempting to Read Blink and Caution

  1. Haha! This review is really well done Ryan! You have concrete examples to back-up your critique.

    Personally, I liked the shifts in perspective and the different points of view but I definitely got confused or thought it was jumbled at some points as well. As well, our tastes in literature are quite different. I don’t know why, but I love all of the depressing, angry, suffering realistic fiction out there. Call me crazy! So I ate this story up and couldn’t put it down.

    I appreciated this blatantly honest blog post and it was definitely food for thought! Thanks for sharing Ryan! 🙂

    – Kayta

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  2. Oh this post was just a downright pleasure to read!
    When I first picked up this novel I thought that the second person narration was going to be a fun twist that I’d learn to love, like the prose fiction in “The Crazy Man” but.. I was wrong. I found myself feeling weird and alienated and unable to relate to Blink. Moreover I found the entire plot to be dry and forced. I thought all of the parts that were supposed to be ‘edgy’ were unrealistic in a way that might appeal to a young teen trying to seem tough but fundamentally ignorant to true hardships of people their age in the world. The brutalities of Brent and Kitty’s pasts were masked by a strange veil of vagueness that felt a lot like censorship and really sapped the novel of any real feeling for me. Additionally I really couldn’t believe that the characters never went back to talk to Alyson, especially after Brent made such a big leap to go check up on her dad for her. I thought she deserved to know what was going on, but apparently Brent was too caught up in Kitty to remember why he risked his life in the first place.
    Overall, really didn’t love this book. I’m pretty excited for “This One Summer” though, here’s to better things to come!

    ~Cayley

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  3. Haha. When I started reading this book, I was so excited by the second person narrative. I got so into it. I was just like “I am a homeless 16-year-old boy.” When my husband asked what I was doing, I would reply “I’m stealing breakfast from a hotel,” or “I’m driving a yellow jeep down an empty road in Ontario.” I really thought of this book as an experience in which I was Blink and an omniscient narrator was explaining everything to me, so that fact that Caution’s story was in the third person made complete sense to me, as did the omniscient bits at the end. Maybe the reason I enjoyed it so much was because of the way I read it.
    I know that probably makes me really weird, but maybe it comes from the reason I read books. I’m a real character reader. I get very invested in characters and I read books so that I can experience other people’s experiences because I can only physically go so many places and I can only be myself. I think literature is the best way to understand another person and shift your focus away from yourself so that you can understand and communicate with others.

    ~Christiane

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  4. Kevan says:

    I agree with you 100%, Ryan! At some point on Monday, I remember discussing whether or not B&C was written to emulate narrative storytelling through the voice of a young adult. While that might explain some of the awkward phrasing and… interesting descriptive choices (“eyes the colour of water off the coast of some place people sail to in a yacht” (10)? REALLY?), I’d argue that it’s not a successful attempt. Writing from such a perspective in the second person is obviously more challenging than trying to do the same thing from a first person POV, and I’m not even sure if it COULD have been done successfully. I do, however, feel confident saying that B&C’s awkward narration is more of a hindrance than an interesting literary twist.

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