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33 SNOWFISH by Adam Rapp


by Adam Rapp & illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

Pub Date: March 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-7636-1874-8
Publisher: Candlewick

The bleak scenery of winter forms the backdrop to this tale of three runaways, bonded together to grasp feebly for emotional warmth. The reader meets Custis, Curl, and Boobie as they speed down the back roads of Illinois in a stolen car, with a stolen baby. Alternating narratives move back and forth through time, obliquely telling the characters’ individual stories even as their current drama unfolds. Custis is homeless, a fugitive from a child-porn producer; Curl is a drug-addicted prostitute; Boobie is a virtual cipher—his contributions to the narrative consist of increasingly violent and nihilistic sketches—who, the reader learns, has just killed his well-to-do parents and made off with his baby brother. They have no destination other than to get away from where they’ve been; they have a vague plan of selling the baby and using the money to set themselves up comfortably. Their “plan” is doomed from the start: the three, plus the baby, end up in an abandoned van in the middle of the woods, where first Curl dies and then Boobie vanishes into the snow. It is at this moment that Custis and the baby are taken in by Seldom, an ancient and eccentric black man who lives in a cabin and who begins to show Custis that maybe there is another way to live. With his customary ear for the language of the marginalized teen, Rapp (Little Chicago, 2002, etc.) allows his characters to present themselves with total un-self-consciousness, frankly and powerfully laying out the squalor of their existence without any seeming sense that life can be anything else but squalid. Seldom may himself seem rather like deus ex machina from a plotting perspective, but he serves to save both Custis and the narrative from utter annihilation. The snug warmth of Seldom’s home and the little family he and Custis and the baby have formed contrasts powerfully with the frigid internal winter that Custis has survived, allowing both Custis and the reader to hope for redemption. (Fiction. YA)