Seriously, HOW GREAT is that title? I saw this book in B&N on an endcap and I had to know more. If you haven’t learned one thing about me by reading my reviews, your one takeaway should be that I DO judge a book by its cover.
Told through the eyes of Janie basically from the moment of her birth, Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float etc. isn’t exactly an idyllic coming-of-age story. It’s about growing up poor and moving from place to place, trying to fit in, and witnessing others’ self-destruction at all-too-young of an age. While the titular Tony Hogan only makes a brief appearance in the novel, he represents a string of bad choices Janie’s mom, Iris, makes. By allowing drug dealing, abusive assholes like Tony into their home, she exposes Janie to very adult situations which Janie tries to process in her childlike way.
While not much of the plot of the novel can be described as “upbeat,” we find in our narrator Janie, a humorous outlook on life, a gathering of strength and the ability to forgive others even after they have wronged her. She sticks by her mother even after the worst of arguments, through a disastrous marriage to loser Doug, her mother’s own drug abuse, depression, bringing her drug-addicted brother to live with them, and more. As Janie starts to head down the same path as her mother as she enters her teen years, it seems like the same hopeless cycle will repeat itself. However, the novel ends on a positive note and we think that Janie might be ok after all.
Despite its unsavory content, this book is endearingly written. All dialogue is done in what I’m going to ignorantly assume is a Cockney accent, so it takes some getting used to. The small details become vivid memories – for instance, the dead spider inside the record player, the orange velour curtains. You can’t help but hope for the best for Janie. Definitely not what I expected by the title and cover, but a good read nonetheless.