Thursday, January 5, 2012

Aaron, Approximately by Zachary Lazar

Released: January 1998

Aaron, Approximately is the first novel by Zachary Lazar - an entertaining and comical (yet very dark) coming-of-age tale about Aaron Bright, a young man who struggles with adolescence and young adulthood after he witnesses the death of his father in a freak skydiving accident.

Aaron Bright often feels as if he has been living in his father's shadow, especially with his father being a local celebrity in Denver, Colorado, where he poses as a clown on his own children's television show. After Aaron's father dies and he becomes the man of the house in an all-female household, we are regaled with Aaron's first-person account of his awkward experiences throughout junior high, high school, and his early college years.

When I stumbled upon Aaron, Approximately at the bookstore, I decided I just had to have it when I flipped through and found the words "Nike" and "Foot Locker." Being a Nike sneaker collector (it's all I wear), I purchased the book without a second glance. After reading this novel, I am immensely proud to have found it, because it is, without a doubt, one of the more entertaining books I have read in months.

The synopsis of Aaron, Approximately appears to make the book much darker and more tragic than it actually is. I do not discount the fact that losing a father at such a young and crucial age for development is indeed tragic, but Aaron's voice and Lazar's writing style is so light and comical that the book isn't at all depressing as you read it.

I will admit that the first few chapters leading up to the death of Aaron's father were slow, dull, and a bit boring, but the novel more than redeemed itself once we got to chapter 5 and beyond. In fact, chapter 5 was absolutely brilliant. Aaron explains to readers about his mother and sister's musical involvement, and about the way they turned the solarium in their home into a mini concert hall, providing an intimate look into Aaron's home life post the death of his father.

Chapter 5 was also the Nike/Foot Locker chapter, in which Aaron's mother takes him shopping for a new pair of shoes, and by the end of the chapter, Aaron explains how he feels like "hugging and apologizing" to this horrible, cheap pair of Nike knock-offs his mother convinces him to buy.

Another reason I loved Aaron, Approximately is because I am also from Colorado, and Aaron's (Lazar's) comments throughout the book about Denver were spot-on; especially in regards to the cynical remarks about nothing ever going on and how the inhabitants of that city watch too much television and pretend to live lives that don't exist. Lazar's voice through Aaron was very evident, and it cracked me up.

Since I'm a female, I usually shun all coming-of-age novels about females because they're all the same. You get your period, go through an ugly phase, kiss your first boy, lose your virginity, blah blah blah. But I love coming-of-age novels about males because we get to explore unfamiliar territory about penises, sex, oddball friendships, and a whole new side of awkward. I'm always on the edge of my seat with novels such as these.

It was only when I went online to read more about Zachary Lazar and review his bibliography that I fully understood the tone and purpose of Aaron, Approximately; especially as Lazar's own father was murdered when Lazar was very young.

Nevertheless, I definitely consider Aaron, Approximately a must-read, especially for fans of J.D. Salinger's infamous The Catcher in the Rye. Fans of Max Barry and Chuck Palahniuk will also enjoy reading Aaron, Approximately.

Zachary Lazar has also written Sway: A Novel (2008) and has released a non-fiction book entitled Evening's Empire: The Story of My Father's Murder (2009).

Click on the pictures of the books below to review them in more detail on


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