Here's the thing - I'm just not that into children, or childhood. I mean, I appreciate that it is kind of a fascinating period of discovery in a person's life, and indeed, I think it's kind of interesting to occasionally consider what the world looks like to a little kid, but I can only sustain that interest for so long. I have absolutely no patience for books (and films) that seek to recapture the "magic" of childhood. Oh, that time of innocence and wonder, that precious naivete that somehow gets construed as moral virtue - blech. Kids aren't better than adults. They don't hold the secrets to the universe. Yes, they have an intriguing worldview, but let's not go overboard.
I say all this, because Weiser Dawidek relies heavily on this mystification of childhood. And this has a lot to do with why I didn't like it very much. The book centers around a mystery - Weiser's disappearance. It's not weird enough that he just vanished one day; actually, Weiser was a pretty odd dude from the get-go. A very odd dude with a penchant for explosives. Who could talk to animals, kinda. And was _really_ good at soccer. Oh, and could levitate. What a character, eh? The thing is, the book doesn't really give you any kind of explanation, or motivate this mystery in any way. At the same time, the book does a rather good job of showing you the world from a child's perspective; how kids make sense of the world in very strange ways because they are too dumb to do otherwise, ahem, don't understand how it works yet. In other words, kids create these wierd causal chains, and have a bizarre sort of narrative logic because they're missing certain key premises that we take for granted. So they'll connect stuff that seems to be totally unrelated, for instance, or come up with strange explanations for things, like "the man on the radio said that the play was cancelled because somebody named mr lincoln had been shot and everyone started to cry because now they wouldn't find out how the play ended". While I'm generally a fan of estrangement, in this text it doesn't really work. The kid's perspective is well executed, but on the other hand, it renders him somewhat unreliable as a narrator. Which is a bit of a problem, if we are to believe that Weiser is indeed some kind of sacred figure. It's not that it automatically means that he isn't, but we at least want a second opinion. And there's the rub - the narrator's buddies, whom he goes back and finds years later, don't seem to care. Is it that they don't care? Or are too traumatized to say? Or just don't really remember? Who knows. Again, we're depending on the narrator to interpret them, so we just don't know. So basically, in my eyes the book totally sabotaged itself.
Furthermore, I found myself unable to muster up a lot of sympathy for the narrator in the present. He mostly seemed like an intrusive, whiny guy who was way too hung up on his childhood. Plus, the trope of repeating over and over "This is not a book about Weiser. I'm just writing, just trying to figure things out." and "Oh, but I have to go back and explain x, and I will justify my repetetiveness by subtly hinting at my deep deep trauma" - seriously groan inducing.
All in all, a sort of emo mystery melodrama. Not my bag, baby.