It shouldn’t work. The title of the book ought to apply to the reader and annoy the hell out of you, but Ryan Bracha’s Phoebe Jeebies and the Man Who Annoyed Everybody is a cracking book with the sweetest heroine. The Man Who Annoyed Everybody is Tony, an Annoyance Officer who works for a rich brat who wants to cause annoyance to the general public for kicks and laughs. Tony’s good at it. He relishes the job, and recruits others to the cause. But when Phoebe comes into his life, it changes his whole outlook on life and forces him to confront his past.
Bracha is not afraid to make you hate a character (Tony), but, as he did in After Call Work: Verbal Warning, he challenges that hate, twists it, makes you like him/her, slaps you back into despising him, and challenges you all over again. Tony will ruin movies for others at the pictures, cause havoc in the self-publishing book industry, and take joy from his activities. But Phoebe is such a sweetheart, she thaws that cold heart of his.
The danger in such a premise is that Phoebe could be nothing more than a cypher. An object of his love, who he dotes on for no reason than she’s a woman providing a plot point to transform him. But Phoebe pops from the page with her smarts and sharp questioning of Tony’s life and purpose. She has flaws, motives, a past all her own, and you fall in love with her along with Tony.
It’s a book which will make your teeth grind at times (from Tony’s actions), and I think that is intentional. The ending is wild and a little sudden, but the joy is in the characters. Bracha is reminding me, at a weirder level, of Iain Banks – in that it’s not so much the plot which matters (fun as that is), but the company of great characters.
A top read.
You can buy Phoebe Jeebies and the Man Who Annoyed Everybody at: