Book Review – Less Than Zero

By Bret Easton Ellis
Started: 3rd August 2014
Finished: 3rd August 2014

Once again, this is another novel where I had seen the film before reading the book. After seeing the film I started to see many comments, about how the film doesn’t do the book any justice. I had made a mental note to read it, so I was delighted to find it on one of my reading lists for university. I now also see why so many people hate the film compared to the book.

Less Than Zero is set in Los Angeles in the 1980s, focusing on the young and rich. The novel’s protagonist (and narrator) is 18-year-old Clay, who has come home for the month long Christmas holidays. He settles back into his drug habit and going to various parties with his friends – although most of the time he is dragged to them. A month back home is long enough for him to realise how everything has changed, even if some people don’t realise. He still has a longing for (ex) girlfriend Blair, and he discovers that something is seriously wrong with his friend Julian.

In the beginning I wasn’t sure how I felt about Clay, he seemed so casual over some shocking things. However as the story progresses and you begin to see his more moral side, he became more likeable for me. We get flashbacks to his life and brief sentences which show the problems he has with his family. He was a very intriguing protagonist and I’m glad he was the one narrating the story. I also found Julian a very interesting character, where Clay was constantly looking for him you want him to be found just so your questions can be answered. What we find out towards the end really made me like Julian more, and just feel sorry for him. I wasn’t too bothered with Blair, I felt as though she was used to move the plot on from party to party. I did enjoy the recurring minor characters, they were unstable, unpredictable and repulsive.

The plot, although it doesn’t feel there is one, is gripping. I always wanted to know what was going to happen with the characters. Or what Clay was going to find people doing next. There are a few moments in this novel that had me feeling uncomfortable or disgusted, but I couldn’t stop reading. I just had to know if they were going to do something just as bad or even worse. I enjoyed how this novel was just a snapshot of Clay’s life at this point in time. How he was struggling, but not necessarily knowing what he can do about it. Despite it being a little vague at times, there were still times where there were some graphic descriptions which were well written.

What made this style of novel really work was the first person narration. It was quick and at times disorientating, even Clay didn’t seem to understand what was happening at times. I loved the lack of punctuation, it really helped me get caught up with the character. There are no chapters as such within the novel, however there are clear divides when something new is happening. This cut the book up into small segments which makes it easier to digest, and adds to the chaotic life that Clay is involved in.

I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down. There were times when it was quite confusing with all the different characters, however as I continued with the book it was easier to distinguish them. I certainly won’t be able to watch the film in the same way again, the book surpasses it and will be something I will pick up again! It’s a great read, unless you’re easily offended or squeamish with needles, or affected by some sexual violence.

Rating: 4/5

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