A didactic novel about a teen who has trouble finding motivation in life.
Teenage Alexander would rather play World of Warcraft than do his homework. While he plays the game, he’s motivated to keep learning, but in the real world, he’s resigned himself to not being very good at certain things, such as math and talking to girls. This changes very quickly when he meets a mysterious stranger who calls himself Chiron in a park in his hometown of Trondheim, Norway. Chiron asks Alexander to become his student so that the teen can learn how to motivate himself—even when the subject is less interesting to him than a video game. Chiron, who gradually reveals details of his world-traveling lifestyle, has a comprehensive curriculum planned for Alexander. It includes neuroscience, psychology, nutrition, and concepts such as the “fixed mindset” and the “growth mindset”—a lot to squeeze into a YA novel. The bulk of the story consists of chat transcripts and emails between Chiron and Alexander in which the teenager recaps the older man’s lessons and completes new assignments. As a result, the lessons are very clearly presented in a format that teens will likely identify with—whether they love World of Warcraft or not. From the book’s earliest pages, its similarities to Norwegian author Jostein Gaardner’s Sophie’s World (1991), in which a philosopher tutors a teenage girl, are hard to ignore; sure enough, in the final pages, Alexander presents Sophie’s World to Chiron as a gift. However, Lehn focuses far more on his book’s didactic mission than on storytelling and style. As a result, the characters lack individual voices, and even the teenage Alexander talks like a self-help book: “I think my low motivation is the main reason I don’t learn more in school,” he says to Chiron, just moments after meeting him.
A novel that offers some valuable life lessons for teens, although its story and characters often feel like window dressing.