Drawn together by their love of science fiction stories, Eric and Darren create an entire world populated with cyborgs and robots. Neither has any other friends, and they quickly become close. But then Eric throws a curve into this standard story of adolescent loneliness: he does not sleep. When a confused Darren asks for clarification, he says: “I mean I can’t sleep. I’ve never been able to and I don’t have to. I am physically incapable of it and I don’t require it.”
Ultimately, it is not about the sex, the drugs, the parties, or the girls. It is not even about Eric’s strange sleeplessness; The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To probes the issue of “growing up” and suggests an alternative to our typical impressions. As Eric and Darren wound between the realms of childhood and adulthood, I realized that our cultural perception of “coming of age” is mostly a myth. No specific event – one party, one kiss, one one-night-stand or even one summer makes you a grown-up.
Eric and Darren defend suburbia against space monsters even after they have had sex and done drugs, even after they are supposed to be “grown-ups”. This way in which D.C. Pierson intertwines the world of magic and fantasy with the world of skepticism and reality resonates due to its perceptive commentary on growing up. We don’t relinquish all things childish as adults.
Sure, I may not believe in Santa anymore, but I cling to child-like idealism and wonder in more subtle ways – my prayer for world peace and my awe at childbirth rather than my desire for toys or my wonder at the stars. By ensnaring this nuance, Pierson captures the awkward period of teenage transition in which no one really knows how they are supposed to behave.
He suggests that the world of grown-ups is not what kids think it will be. Especially for Eric and Darren, being an adult is more like reverting back to being a little kid – you have to almost believe in magic; everything else – the sex, drugs, parties etc. – become much less important. The world is full of magic and adventure; you just have to keep your eyes open.