Tully’s debut novel concerns the coming-of-age of a teenage boy in suburban Cleveland.
Trevor McNulty is somewhat peculiar for a 17-year-old boy. His best friend is a man in his 70s, his childhood involved a mysterious tragic event, and his passion in life is garbage picking. Discovering the things people are throwing out, Trevor enjoys nothing so much as repairing these items in a run-down garage he calls “the Box.” Whether the end result involves giving the repaired items away to charity or handing them over to his alcoholic uncle (“one of the biggest assholes on the planet”) for resale, Trevor finds the refurbishing process fulfilling. When a mission to rescue an unwanted lawn mower lands Trevor in a fancy neighborhood, he winds up falling in love. Meeting the beautiful Barbara (Bea to friends), with her dyed black hair and luxurious home, he is overcome with the nervous excitement of new love. The two have chemistry together, despite the fact that Bea’s home life isn’t quite as picturesque as it may appear: Her father, Bill, is distant and possibly having an affair, while her mother, Evelyn, is moody and prone to “closet-drinking.” After Evelyn throws herself at Trevor in a pitiful display of need, Trevor’s odd life becomes surrounded by the difficulties of other people. What’s a young boy who simply wants to fix things to do? Detailed nicely with the finer points of life in Cleveland, Trevor’s adventure proves believable, his eccentricity notwithstanding. Resourceful and kind, he emerges as a young man worth rooting for even if supporting characters tend to be painted with broad strokes. Bea’s wise African-American housekeeper, Lorene, for example, may strike readers as all too stereotypical with her excellent cooking, simple advice and selfless ability to help solve the problems of the white characters around her. Lagging at times amid the back and forth of an adolescent relationship, the story manages to bring in new surprises while keeping Trevor’s past an intriguing secret.
The fulfilling story of a young man who can turn trash into treasure.