An abused young teenager deals with his mother’s cancer while making new friends in this YA novel set in Somerville, Mass.
In Richardson’s debut young-adult novel, set in 1980, a 13-year-old boy’s life changes after his mother’s death. Finbar “Fin” O’Connell has been sexually and mentally abused by his uncle Steve ever since he and his mother moved in with him after Fin’s father was convicted of murder. When Fin’s mother develops lung cancer, suffers a stroke and ends up hospitalized, Fin tearfully explains that he doesn’t want to go back to his uncle—and why. His friend’s compassionate father, Mr. Squillante, is happy to take him in, but a police “investigation” (which does not include examining Fin in any way) reveals no evidence of abuse. Still, Fin manages to find a way to live with the Squillantes. New friends and kind adults help the boy handle his changing circumstances. Richardson shows an intimate knowledge of Somerville and its every street corner: The kids play the street game relievio, “where one team would hide and the other team would seek out the hiders and round them up on porches.” The novel lacks subtlety, however, laying everything on thick—teen-boy sarcasm and grossness, Boston accents, moral lessons. The most glaring fault, though, is how easily things work out for Fin. With his mother still on her deathbed, he reflects, “I had some special moments with my mom…and I am stahting to feel grateful for having those memories because they’ll always be in my haht.” Effective consolations on being orphaned include living with the Squillantes (“awesome”), winning girlfriend Penny’s heart, and being the hero of his school’s floor-hockey tournament on the very day of his mother’s wake—which he calls, “the best moment of my life.”
Evocative setting but overwritten prose.