Lack of review posts notwithstanding, I really have been keeping up with my personal challenge to read all ten of the 2014 Alex Award books. Today I'm going to tell you about the one I finished a couple of weeks ago.
Brewster, a Vietnam-era coming-of-age story by Mark Slouka, is a sad novel. It starts out sad, is filled with sad, and ends sort of hopefully sad. The sadness isn't anything that Jon Mosher, a lonely runner and child of Holocaust survivors, or Raymond Cappicciano, an angry bad boy with a violent, dismissive father, can do anything about. It comes from their parents, and the parents don't, or can't, care.
Jon had a favored older brother, Aaron, who was killed in a freak accident when he was 5 and Jon was 4, an accident of Aaron's own doing . He found a discarded lamp on the street, brought it inside and plugged it in, and was electrocuted. Mrs. Mosher's life broke that day, and she blames Jon. His father is a kind man, but withdrawn in the family. Nothing Jon does -- as an excellent student or a top long-distance runner -- can win his parents' attention or approval.
Ray's father was a cop, but was let go from the force for reasons not quite clear. He's had two wives leave -- Ray's mother years ago, and little Gene's mom recently. Gene is still in diapers, and is Ray's only reason for caring. Ray is a self-made bad boy, with long coat and long hair, always ready to fight. Sometimes he misses school for days, recovering from some pit fight or other in another town. Mr. Cappicciano never has a good word for his elder son, always badmouthing or criticizing him, while he praises Jon's successes and says he's the son he wishes he had. Jon kind of likes the attention, since he gets none from his own parents. It blinds him to the truth.
Jon and Ray are best friends, opposites attracting. A girl comes into the picture, Karen, whom Jon likes but who immediately goes for Ray. She's good for him, and together the three dream of leaving Brewster for some bigger, better place.
Things don't work out they way they hope, and the sadness is that it's not because of anything the teenagers choose to do. The odds are stacked against them because adults who should love and care, are too wrapped up in their own pain, loss and anger to make the world a safe place for their children.
Does this sound like a potential lit book? Oh yeah, and I'd recommend it. The writing is lovely, the issues and characters are real, and the conflict is relatable, but not too close (I hope, but really, one never knows).
Have you read Brewster? What do you think? Comments welcome!
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√ Help for the Haunted
√ The Lives of Tao
√ The Death of Bees
√ Mother, Mother
Yet to be read
Golden Boy by Abigail Tartellin.
The Sea of Tranquility
The Universe Versus Alex Woods