An all-star kid tracks down a bank robber in Vallar’s debut novel.
Jack wants to convince his father that he’s not just an average high school kid. Good grades aren’t enough, nor is his commitment to golf. When Tom Dash, an old friend and drop out, calls, ostensibly for advice, he finds himself in an even deeper hole: Dash sets up Jack as an accomplice to a bank robbery. Dash escapes, but Jack goes to the police to make sure they have the full story. From this point in the novel forward, Jack doesn’t fail at anything he tries. He follows Dash from Pennsylvania to Florida, and when it seems he might have to return home empty handed, a beautiful girl named Debbie befriends him and hands him all the details he needs to keep his investigation going. He then ingratiates himself with Debbie’s family and wins the day, getting the girl in the process. Jack has it all—a genius-level IQ, a small golf handicap, manners, courage, strength and a big heart—so it’s hard to believe that his father is unimpressed. Jack obliterates the minor obstacle before him at the beginning of the novel, then continues handily dispatching whatever challenges the world throws at him. Vallar has created a character so humbly heroic that he inspires little sympathy in the reader. Void of flaws, Jack eschews reality. Additionally, after a strong start, the primary plot ends halfway through the novel, yet the story continues with multiple golf outings. The matches provide some occasion for development, but the unexciting passages, along with banal dialogue, stymie the novel’s progress.
Flat characters and a straightforward plot make for an uninspiring read.