The story is written in diary-style using audio recordings. This is the journal of thirteen-year-old Kos, who lives at a hotel with his father and three sisters. He loves to play soccer and is enamored with a girl in his class named Isabel. His mother passed away from cancer three years ago. Kos has his own problems with each of his siblings – he uses the phrase ‘gone off the deep end’ to refer to them. The eldest sister, Libbie, is nineteen and trying to take on a motherly role to her siblings as she falls in love with a melancholic poet who stays at the hotel. Breek is fifteen and a goth; she wears only black, paints her face like a canvas, and adapts fairytales to rock music. Pel, the youngest, is nine years old. She wears her mother’s clothing as pajamas, sings the songs her mother used to sing, and keeps an assortment of dead animals around her. The little girl has accepted death as a transformation and has become friends with death; maybe it’s her way of getting over her mother’s passing.
In Kos‘un Hotel, there are three semi-dead men. One of them is Walput, the hippie chef who decorates his kitchen with posters of rock bands from 60 years ago and spends his free time tweaking his motorcycle. Felix, the one Libbie falls in love with, spends his days in the bar looking out to the sea writing poems on beer mats. According to Pel, he will walk off one day when his money runs out and die in the sea. Felix loves this story. The third semi-dead man is Kos‘un father. He’s always drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, and gets a heart attack. Now, three girls and Kos are running the hotel. On the same day they started changing the old name of the hotel to a new one but they ran out of time before they could finish it. So it stays “Big L Hotel“.
While Kos was managing the customers, Little Pel hopped behind the bar to serve wine from enormous beer mugs. She was too short to see over the counter, so she had to jump and hop around. Her mouth did not stay still either, as she regaled the customers with every kind of weird death-related fact she knew, leaving them all a shade paler than before. In her sweet and innocent voice she spoke of Felix turning blue and sinking into the sea, or how snakes would come out of his eyes and his flesh would be eaten by lobsters and crabs. Then she introduced the customers her pet zombie rabbit, which she had named Zombie. Libbie went to her father’s room to tried and find out who could help them. But all they discovered was that they had seven thousand dollars in debts that they had to pay within seven days or they would lose all their possessions. They couldn’t tell their father anything because he needed to remain calm for his recovery. So they lied, telling him that an assistant from the insurance company had been sent to help and everything was going according to plan. Meanwhile, the customers find caterpillars between the unchanged sheets had all fled without looking back and posted truly horrible reviews about the hotel.
Then, all of a sudden, an Ajax talent scout had come to watch Kos‘ soccer game and made it clear that he was interested in the boy. Isabel, with whom Kos was in love, was also paying attention to him. Isabel is invited to a beauty pageant and the winner will getfive thousand dollars. This money could possibly save the Big L Hotel hotel. But in the end Kos ends up entering the beauty pageant by himself and even outshines Isabel. He then runs off to the soccer match and scores two goals, with the make up on her face being mistaken for a mask. Thus, she becomes the first ever male to win a beauty pageant, be accepted into a professional league, and to win the girl of his dreams. os uses the money for paying his fathers debts. Big L Hotel turns into Big Love Hotel. And with that, Kos ends the recording.
When I was reading the book, there was no age range specified. I thought the cover and topic were appropriate for a nine-year-old, but then:
–there were explicit song lyrics,
–Kos drinks (but doesn’t like) champagne and wears a very short Scottish kilt while serving customers,
-A complaint about a bug found in someone’s bed, someonesaying “Maybe your wife mixed him up with your little one,” –
–Breek beingcaught by a teammate while changingfrom girls’ to boys’ clothes with a bra in her hand and saying “I had sex before the game” as an excuse…
These could all be a bit much even for a ten-year-old. On the other hand, the book is so beautiful, colorful, and one-of-a-kind…and it has such an original and openminded vibe… In fact, it reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine. When I heard that it was also made into a movie, it all fell into place. This crazy, one of a kind Dutch book is sure to be an example of good independent cinema.
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