CBR14 BINGO: Funky square
(Googled “funky” for kicks. Could not ignore this title. Could you? That title and cover are perfection. Felt like Cannonball Bingo kismet.)
Okay. This book had all of the bones of an outrageous fantastical romp. Indebted to a witch, a cursed man (Dan) is tasked with running a store full of magical doo-dads (Funky Dan’s) in a small Arkansas town. He can’t leave the building until this debt is paid. If he does, worms eat him from the inside. He knows this because he has tried to leave. It’s not pleasant. Fortunately, he also has a magical talking fox, Eely, to keep him company. Their relationship is confrontational but better than nothing. Customers rarely come around, but when they do it’s because one of the magic doo-dads inside calls to them. Purchases are made in trade, and no money is exchanged. All traded items become part of the magical doo-dad selection for future customers.
Where is the Pixie Dream girl you ask? She, Roxie, is trying to live her best trans-girl life with her mom and friends/bandmates after moving away from a zealous and violent father that cannot accept who she is. Arkansas, as you would expect, is probably not the best location on the map for her to live her best life, but she’s starting to make it happen when a dream pixie appears with an offer. Would Roxie like to take over helping people conquer their nightmares? Just until the next full moon, so that the pixie can take a break in her Pixieland? More coercion than choice plunges Roxie into other people’s nightmares each evening to help them kick out the boogiemen. Unfortunately, she’s not the only nightmare invader in town as a nemesis emerges to thwart all of her bad dream-banishing mojos. When Roxy crosses paths with Funky Dan and Eely, they join up to defeat her nightmare nemesis. In the meantime, Roxie has to deal with backcountry prejudice and violence and the growing awareness that substitute pixie-ing yields some weird physical side effects.
Even as I write this I’m thinking this plot is bonkers in a badass kind of way. Which it is. Really. It often read a lot like fanfiction to me, which isn’t a bad thing, but definitely felt like a debut novel by someone who is just getting their fiction writing chops. It is heavy on the telling and not so much on the showing. While I get that Lanning often has her tongue planted firmly in her cheek, the dialogue does often go a little over the top, particularly with lengthy soapbox diatribes full of super-detailed exposition.
All in all, the characters were interesting and refreshing and I enjoyed being on their journey. This is the first book in the series and the first novel for Lanning, who is a journalist. I’m wondering if the second book will be a bit more put together.