“I’ve always had an interest in the ‘60s psychedelic culture ever since I first listened to Sgt. Pepper back in third grade,” said Ian Thomas Malone, describing the inspiration behind his new novel, “A Trip Down Reality Lane.” “I wanted to write a story about youthful indecisiveness through a medium that hadn’t been explored.”
Malone’s novel is the story of a junior English major who embarks on a life-altering acid trip in downtown Boston with his friends. The group journeys to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and a showing of “The Lion King,” all while the narrator tackles his own inward journey of self-discovery.
Sounds pretty promising, right? We’ve got drugs, solid thematic potential and an interesting setting to watch it all play out. But in reality, the author lacked the minimal execution required to make it work. Whereas the prospect of an LSD trip presents boundless possibilities for mischief and mayhem, “A Trip Down Reality Lane” was so disappointingly dull that it might actually inspire you to never try acid for fear of being bored to tears.
The extent of the ensuing shenanigans is some confusion over how to use restroom sinks and one of the guys briefly pretending to be a tour guide at the museum. Seriously, that’s it. You’d think that being on acid in a public museum might not go down so smoothly, but everything went unrealistically perfectly for these guys. The premise of the novel was just begging for something, just something to go wrong, but alas, no such luck. The story drags through their time at the museum, with continuous acid-muddled observations of paintings broken only by the narrator’s repeated pondering on his uncertain future.
The characters in “A Trip Down Reality Lane” were also largely despicable. The narrator is a pretentious douchebag who infuriatingly gives the typical spiel about not identifying with the hipster “label.” (Cue extended sighs of aggravation.) As for the other characters, his friends are also pretty unlikable. Charles is the “cool” older kid who is more experienced with LSD, which apparently gives him the right to act like a pedantic asshole. James is the obnoxious kid on his first acid trip who consistently acts like he has the mental capacity of a five year old. Overall, a great crew.
Despite the characters’ overall contemptibility, the narrator’s fear of the future and struggle to find himself are fairly relatable. Many college kids find it difficult to determine their path, and thus thinking about life beyond college can be a little terrifying. Malone actually has some sage advice to offer on this difficulty: “You don’t necessarily need to know what you want to do when you graduate, but it’s important to spend your time on experiences that will be beneficial to your overall growth. Find your passions and then you’ll find a way to make it work.” His opinion rings true in the novel’s conclusion: It’s okay to not know where your journey is headed, as long as you don’t let that stop you.
Unfortunately, Malone’s writing style just doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to making the novel work. The writing reads more like children’s literature than a young adult novel in its utter flatness. With spelled-out metaphors, a beaten-to-death moral and little to no character development, it’s every English major’s worst nightmare. Quite ironic, considering the narrator himself is an English major. Malone’s writing chops blatantly fail him when the narrator reads aloud some poems he wrote for his poetry class. The author may not be a very good novelist, but God forbid he ever write poetry.
If you’re looking for a quick read that will effectively make you lose faith in the future of young adult fiction, “A Trip Down Reality Lane” might be the book for you. Or you could spend a sober weekend knitting with your cats and probably have a much better time than reading about the most lackluster acid trip to never occur — the choice is yours.
contact Madeline Wells at [email protected]