BookBrowse Reviews The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The House of Tomorrow

A Novel

by Peter Bognanni

The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni X
The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 354 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2011, 368 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A novel about the power of music, the exquisite torture of first love, and the many places we call home

Peter Bognanni's The House of Tomorrow is a fresh and creative novel that I truly enjoyed reading. The story is told in the first person from the perspective of Sebastian Prendergast, a sixteen-year-old boy who is home-schooled by his determined - if not a little bizarre - grandmother in a geodesic dome. His entire world is created and controlled by Nana, a disciple of futurist R. Buckminster Fuller, so when Sebastian meets Jared, an angry, punk-rocking, chain-smoking heart transplant survivor, he discovers that there is a lot to learn about the outside world and himself. Set in rural Iowa, where the hottest local hangout is church, the boys envision that winning the youth group talent contest will be their first step towards becoming glorious punk rockers.

Bognanni uses first person narration, which adds tremendously to the story because it puts readers in Sebastian's shoes and allows us to learn all over again the wonders of gooey processed foods, high school crushes and ridiculously loud rock and roll. Sebastian's dorkiness is simply unavoidable, which makes him an easy mark for Jared's sarcasm, and his futuristic way of speaking entertains without sounding overdone or like he's auditioning for The Coneheads.

However, the real reason to love this book is Jared. This character alone makes the book worth reading. He is sharp-tongued and witty, vulnerable, and has the creativity of a lonely child. So when he finds himself with a new friend, he wavers between being overjoyed and scared. His solution is to boss Sebastian around, which results in hilarious dialogue, a particular strength of the novel. Bognanni also captures the complex dynamics - some subtle, others not so subtle - between family members. Meredith is a great counterpart and older sister to Jared; she dishes out insults as a way of bonding with her brother, protects him when it's least expected, and reveals her own vulnerabilities in a few quiet moments that are a joy to read. And, of course, the siblings only seem to cooperate with each other when it involves teaming up against their mother, Janice Whitcomb.

While I think that Mrs. Whitcomb and Nana are essential and well-described characters, they fall short in comparison with the dynamic teens. They both seem slightly one-dimensional - Mrs. Whitcomb as the worrying mother and Nana as the obsessive eccentric. Perhaps, if these characters were a little more complex, the ending would not feel as convenient. Events wrap up too easily and the book loses some of its punch, but again, the dialogue and character development of Sebastian, Jared and Meredith are so well done that you hardly notice. The plot of the story isn't particularly fast-paced or driving; in fact, at times it feels a little slow. This is because The House of Tomorrow is about the small events that enrich - about the rich conversations people have while practicing musical instruments together, how sharing CDs can be a window into someone's soul and how shared situations create a deep bond between people even if they don't always treat each other right.

Peter Bognanni is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is a 2008 Pushcart Prize nominee, and his short story "The Body Eternal" was chosen by Stephen King as one of the "100 Most Distinguished Stories of 2006." He once played in a terrible high school punk band.

"I have a theory that music never sounds as good as when you first discover it. ... I still love music today, probably in a healthier way, but when I set out to write my first novel I tried to tap back into that feeling of complete obsession."

Read a list of songs Bognanni "revisited, discovered or wanted to be" as he was writing The House of Tomorrow, on the NY Times blog, Paper Cuts

Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie

This review was originally published in March 2010, and has been updated for the March 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Overstory
    The Overstory
    by Richard Powers
    Many glowing adjectives can be used to describe a novel by Richard Powers: brilliant, moving, ...
  • Book Jacket: American Histories
    American Histories
    by John E. Wideman
    In American Histories, a collection of 21 short stories, John Edgar Wideman draws America's present ...
  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl Who Smiled Beads
    by Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil

    A riveting story of survival, and the power of stories to save us.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.