I picked up Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas after it was featured on my local library’s book of the week list. As soon as I began reading it, I loved it. There was so much about the plot that I related to and I really fell in love with the main character, Steve York. Steve is a senior in high school, living with his divorced mother in California. The story chronicles Steve’s fall from academic grace. At the beginning of the book you know that he is incredibly intelligent but that his talent has been left unused for some time. Steve’s guidance counsellor tells him that he will be missing some credits and won’t graduate on time, however he offers Steve a deal: he can write an extended essay of his choosing in order to graduate on time. Steve follows the “write about what you know” rule, and decides to open up to his guidance counsellor and tell the story of how he got to where he was today. Readers learn about Steve at the same pace that he reveals himself to his guidance counsellor through his writing. We learn about Steve’s bad relationship with his father, a former astronaut living in Texas, whom Steve believes to be too perfect with expectations of the same from his children. We learn of his parents’ divorce and Steve’s unfounded decision to side with his mother. Finally, we learn about Steve’s first real romantic relationship and how it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The writing throughout this book is excellent and the way the story is presented is very entertaining. Thomas keeps the readers attention by alternately switching between giving the reader glimpses of present-day Steve mixed with glimpses of past-tense Steve via the protagonist’s essay. Almost all of the characters in the novel are flawed in some way, but in the most human ways. Steve is an incredibly relatable protagonist; reader’s find that in writing about himself he learns about himself, a concept that I can totally get behind.
I think that everyone should give this book a try. If you enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I think you would also enjoy this short novel. Below is one of my favorite quotes from the book:
‘Do you learn to write that much better in college?’ I asked Sky. ‘It’s not so much learning as it is living. You can improve your technique through classes and through reading, but you’ve got to have some truth to put behind the language. Otherwise, no one will connect to it. It’s tough, for example, to write about love until you’ve had your heart broken. -179