The Glitch in Sleep Book Review - Theme, Setting, and Writing Style

The Glitch In Sleep Book Review – Theme, Setting, and Writing Style

Introduction

“Imagine that The World we know is constructed somewhere else. The sunset is painted daily, the world's rain is regulated through a huge water tank, and a Good Night's Sleep is packaged, processed, and sent to you nightly, with a specially built dream enclosed just for you. Beyond the In-Between, every detail of the world is carefully fashioned by workers in The Seems.” – TeensReadToo.com

In The Glitch in Sleep, there is a whimsical world called The Seems – an imaginative corporation in charge of our world. From the Department of Thought & Emotion to the Department of Weather, The Seems keeps everything in The World (a.k.a. our world) in check.
But from time to time, something goes wrong in The Seems. Then, one of the 37 worldwide experts on the inner workings of The World and The Seems is called in to Fix the problem. To be one of those select 37 is to be the cream of the crop.

They are known as the Fixers.

Twelve-year-old Becker Drane, newly promoted Fixer No. 37 and youngest person ever to pass the Practical (a grueling test designed to determine your position in the field of Fixing), lives a double life. By day, he’s your average 7th grader in Highland Park, New Jersey: trying to get out of having to read I Am the Cheese for RLA class (“That book is way too dark for someone my age!”), skateboarding around town, and constantly being annoyed by his little brother Benjamin (and vice versa). But by night, you’ll find Becker staying up late to double-check his Toolbox and recite his exit strategies just in case finally, finally, that’s his night to go off on his first Fixer mission.

But Becker should be a little more careful about what he wishes for… For he just might get it. On Becker’s first assignment, a Glitch crops up in the Department of Sleep, and pretty soon he’s realizing just how hard the aftershock will be for one sleepless night around the globe, and that he’s possibly the only person that can stop it.

Theme

The theme is the importance of believing in yourself. Once you look past all the descriptive stuff about The Seems, The Glitch in Sleep just boils down to a story about a little 12-year-old boy who has been given a mission to bear Atlas’ burden – the weight of the world. Yes, this little boy is highly trained, and yes, his scores at the IFR (Institute for Fixing & Repair) have beaten those of several adults, but he’s just a regular kid. Becker’s a kid who ribs his younger brother and loves video games and stays up late to watch movies. Doesn’t sound too different from most 7th grade boys, does it?

A kid who has to save The World. It isn’t a new theme. Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl II, Maximum Ride, and countless others in the world of fictional characters have pulled it off. But Harry Potter had a book of spells, Artemis Fowl II had one of the greatest IQs in history, and Maximum Ride had wings from being mutated. So how does a fairly normal kid manage to do it?
At the start, Becker tries not to think about it. Instead of focusing on all the tens of millions of people he has to save, he focuses on just one, a severely bullied girl named Jennifer Kaley. The IFR lessons state that you must not be too overwhelmed about saving The World, so that’s how he manages it.

But in one of the key parts of the book, Becker doesn’t deal with the ‘weight of the world on his shoulders’ thing very well. This is when he is captured by the infamous Bed Bugs, repulsive creatures that mix up nightmares for people in The World. The Bed Bugs test out their beta version of “Your Worst Nightmare” on him, and chaos (psychologically speaking) ensue. Becker gets a vivid nightmare of failing to Fix the Glitch – him waking up and realizing how much time he’d lost, hurriedly talking to his upset Briefer Simly Frye (a Briefer is a Fixer’s right-hand man or woman) who informs him that The World is tearing itself apart, Becker desperately cycling back home to Highland Park, New Jersey to try and save his family… You can imagine that when he woke up, he was thoroughly shaken. And then he’s pulled out of duty for violating a certain rule and he’s threatened with losing his Fixer status. Wow. What a night.

But it picks up when one of my favorite parts happen. Just when the Dept. of Sleep’s manager is about to kick him off the mission, Becker pulls out his Glimmer of Hope, a super-rare graduation present from his instructor at the IFR. It’s blindingly stunning and incredibly pure, and with enough hoping and believing it shows Becker the clue to where the Glitch will hit next. What makes this part one of my favorites is the fact that Becker bounces back from feeling hopeless. During this part, he’s given a last chance and he makes the most out of it. He hopes and hopes and hopes until the Glimmer of Hope starts to swell up and glow, and in the process Becker begins to salvage his self-confidence, inevitably leading to him upping the ante of his Fixing skills. And why not? He’s got a great Briefer, the clue to where the Glitch will hit next, a Toolbox full of the right stuff, and a renewed confidence.

Hulme and Wexler tackle the theme intriguingly. The theme is fairly deep as it reflects on people’s opinions of themselves and how simply believing in yourself can make a huge difference, but Hulme and Wexler are careful to make the book a children’s action-packed sci-fi/fantasy adventure with a lighthearted tone. This isn’t bad. In fact, the theme still gets across pretty well. The lighthearted tone works with the whimsical nature of the setting but does not work well at crucial parts in the plot or characterization. Characters can appear one-sided and “flat” and some key problems Becker faces are solved too easily and the conclusion of the story feels forced.

Writing Style & Setting

The Glitch in Sleep is like a nifty carnival, with so many different booths (details) to look at and wonder. At first, it can be rather daunting as the first chapter whisks you right to the Becker’s last Briefing mission before you know a lot about The Seems – luckily, it backtracks quite a lot. The book is fond of flashbacks, which gives me the sense that I’m watching a movie or reading a movie script, really. The precise detail in the setting also screams to be CGI-ed into a movie. In fact, John Hulme has had a career in directing some short movies/documentaries, so the movie-script feel isn’t an entirely random sensation.

I can see why The Seems would the perfect setting for a movie. It’s my favorite fictional universe to open to page one and escape into because of all the rich and well-written depiction of The Seems. As a book, The Seems is right where the bulk of the story happens, and, as a result, it is given the privilege of being described several times over by the brilliant authors. I wouldn’t say the setting is “in sync” with the theme but it definitely has an immense effect on the characters. Becker is extremely passionate about The Seems and it shows in the book, which is always a nice thing. Even though the book is written in third-person, we can see the beauty of The Seems from his point of view.
No one can deny that the description and minutiae of the setting is fantastic; and the amusing writing style something purely extraordinary.
The kick-butt duo of writers shows us trivia-packed (look at the footnotes!) VIP tours of the pillow fortress that is the Department of Sleep. They painstakingly describe the bombarded production line of Sleep, (“Once cooled, the gelatinous mess congealed into a thick taffylike substance, which was then cut into chunks and shipped to the Master Bedroom…”) a rowdy nightclub called The Slumber Party, (“Becker and Simly made their way past the band in the corner – a three-piece jazz ensemble that laid down a drowsy groove – and approached the mahogany bar.”) and the all-powerful Dreamatorium. (“The Fixer popped from the Transit Tube – “Whoa” – and found himself surrounded by bubbles – purple and glistening and floating through the air – except these bubbles were the size of basketballs.”)

The book – a confetti parade of imagery - has us wholeheartedly delighting in both the actual plot and the description. The Glitch in Sleep requires a second sitting for your senses to pick up all the whimsical tidbits of sensory language and creativity! One catches a bit of wanderlust for The Seems just writing about it. The descriptions in the novel do not cover absolutely everything in The Seems but gives us enough room to imagine what else is there.

The writing style is very characteristic and very original. Even the discussions between the characters convey this (look below to the second-last “…”). Chockfull of similes, metaphors, idioms, and TONS of word play, Hulme-and-Wexler style has distinguished itself to be on the same level of imagination as Pseudonymous-Bosch-style and Trenton-Lee-Stewart-style.

The only downside I see with the amount of word play that has been put into this piece is that it appeals mainly to older kids, who will “get” the authors’ humor. Younger kids, like third-fifth grade-age, will most likely be perplexed.

But Hulme and Wexler’s style isn’t just word play. It’s also in the format of the book and the vibe you get from it. It’s hip and modern with a sprinkling of fanciful and quirky. For example, in what other book can you find…

…chapters zero through fourteen but skipping chapter thirteen because “Superstition, a sub-department of the Department of Everything That Has No Department recommends against un-authorized use of the number 13”?
…a non-disclosure contract from the Department of Legal Affairs as the first page (signature needed to read book)?
…a comprehensive glossary with definitions like, “Stumbling Block: A multitiered obstacle course designed to test the physical, emotional, and spiritual limits of Candidates at the IFR” and “Awesomeville: The most popular amusement park in The Seems. Attractions include: an Awesome Place to Eat, Awesome Things to Do, and the Most Awesome Ride Ever”?
…an eccentric Fixer’s tool catalog, with tools such as Bed Bug Repellent™ and Those Things That Look a Lot Like Tweezers That You Cut Wires With™?
…a wide variety of slang-ish words and terms such as “trickiest bitzer”, “bummedoutedness”, “stay frosty”, and my favorite, “let’s blow this taco stand”?
…totally read-worthy footnotes that add to the gist of it all?

I was blown away by all of the above. The way the authors wrote… it… was… just…a stroke of genius. Really. Just today as I was leafing through The Glitch in Sleep’s pages, I was struck by how much fun Hulme and Wexler seemed to have had writing it. Instead of envisioning them formulating sentences with tightly-knotted eyebrows at their desks all day long, I get enthralling images of them playing with words as if they were Play-Doh, shaping a gorgeous world from experimenting with the proverbs and idioms and metaphors. It seemed like they had one heck of a time! I mean, look at the list above! There’s lots of cool street slang and bizarre gadgets and witty footnotes, etc. etc. etc. that make this book one of a kind. This is why this book is one of my favorites -

I have never read a book quite like The Glitch in Sleep.

Conclusion

If I were asked to give three reasons why I would recommend this book to a friend, these would be my answers:
1. The charming word play. It works, and I have never quite seen this great word sense displayed in any other novel.
2. The inspired format. Footnotes, a glossary, a non-disclose contract, and a tool catalog? These all make the book come “alive” because once you read these little extra morsels of information you can’t help it. You wind up thinking, Sounds like it’s real! Very innovative technique.
3. The elaborate descriptions. I feel like I can smell, hear, see, taste, and feel everything. To read The Glitch is Sleep is to delight your imagination to travel to far-off lands. There are settings you want to live in forever. The Seems is one of those settings.

In conclusion, The Glitch in Sleep is a literary landmark for aficionados of similes, metaphors, word play and inventive use of imagery. The authors have molded an astounding setting and have raised the bar for creativity with their distinctive format. Hulme and Wexler have proven an exceptional sense of humor and literature and have given us a wonderful example of setting and writing style with their own quirks.

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