A review of Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey

by capreviewroom

I started this book with optimism in my heart, despite hearing the negative reviews of James Frey’s writing. But very quickly I began to see why so many people had difficulties with this book. At the beginning, I had a very hard time discerning which stories belonged to which characters, how many characters there were, what was going on and if the stories lined up in any way. The stories were muddled and separated by page. Of course the further I read into the book, the stories of Old Man Joe, Esperanza, Dylan and Maddie and Amberton became more clear and defined.

In this book, Frey outlines the stories of four different demographics in Los Angeles. He reaches far into each corner and picks the most stereotypical and bland characters he could. Esperanza, the only mexican character in the book, is a maid. Dylan and Maddie are the young couple from some ambiguous and homely state, run away from a life of abuse from their parents to seek out a “better life” in the city of dreams. Amberton is the rich famous actor with a big, fabulous secret. And Old Man Joe is the typical homeless man, working towards that next bottle of Chablis, a type of wine which has become his personal poison. In all these stories, Frey presents some form of challenge, and in doing so manages to highlight many social issues in current day society.

While Frey is trying to establish these characters, he decides to give us a little background on the city itself. Instead of giving us the city’s personal history, he gives us it’s factual history. This leads me to believe that Frey never even stepped foot in the city of Los Angeles. He even goes so far to sarcastically give us pages of silly, worthless facts about the city. Yes, I understand now the naming of the highways in L.A., but how does that relate to the characters? This does nothing except show the reader how unattached he really is to the city. This, along with the bland and typical stories of the main characters gives the reader an impending sense of nothing. The only character that has anything going for them is Old Man Joe, with his urge to help a fellow homeless girl in a time of need.

And to top it off, Frey was granted a crackpot team of editors who do not seem to know what a run-on sentence is. There were several moments in reading this book that I had to consciously monitor my breathing because there were little to no pauses in the writing itself. One or two passages would be a forgivable mistake, but there were well beyond a few errors. I suggest that Frey fire his editing team immediately, if he has not done so already, and demand his money back.

-By Courtney Blake


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