Caring Is Creepy, in simple terms, is a coming of age novel about a rather naïve 15-year-old called Lynn Marie Sugrue. Lynn hasn’t had an easy time of it so far -her parents split when she was six and she hasn’t seen her embezzler of a father since he disappeared with a load of cash when she was eight. Now Lynn lives with her mother, a nurse who works way too many night shifts for Lynn’s good, and she can’t wait to grow up.
But despite how Lynn and her best friend Dani try mightily to impress each other, it is obvious to anyone but them that both girls are blowing smoke when it comes to being world-wise. It is not that they are unwilling, but the girls have experienced very little of the real world they imagine to be waiting for them just around life’s next corner. Their trouble starts when Dani receives a computer for her birthday rather than the car she expects. Dani, of course, is crushed by the switch but, when Lynn reminds her that the “plastic box” is full of naked men, she agrees that they should unpack the computer - strictly for “scientific purposes,” of course. With help from a nerdy neighbor, Lynn and Dani, in the guise of a 50-year-old gay man from Dotham, Alabama, are soon practicing their mischief in a few adult chat rooms. Their hometown, little Metter, Georgia, will never be the same.
The decision to reveal her real identity and personal details to a young soldier she meets on the Internet is where Lynn makes her big mistake. Logan Loy, the 25-year-old soldier, has already served one tour of duty in Iraq and he is desperately searching for a way to avoid going back for a scheduled second tour. Lynn, who emotionally depends on her little romance with Logan to keep her going, encourages him to go AWOL if he has to - and offers to hide him inside a hidden storage space that is accessible only from her bedroom closet, if he does. Meanwhile, Lynn is beginning to realize that her mother’s druggie boyfriend has brought them to the attention of local gangsters searching for the drugs and money the lowlife owes them. She and her mother are beginning to feel very pressured by all the attention.
At this point in the narrative, Zimmerman has set the scene for a violent clash of two worlds and, when it happens, Caring Is Creepy veers dramatically from coming-of-age comedy to intense crime fiction. The experience is a little like reading two books that happen to share the same set of characters. It is all a bit jarring, but it worked for me.
(Look for this one in April.)
Rated at: 4.0