HOPPERGRASS by Chris Carlton Brown


Age Range: 14 & up
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Awaiting a psychiatric evaluation at a rural juvenile detention site for his part in a botched robbery, Bowser forms tentative friendships with several of his fellow inmates, including an African-American teen nicknamed Nose. When another friend dies while at the facility, Bowser defends Nose’s innocence, while alienating his companions and clashing with the authorities. With a drawling voice that discourages all but the most determined readers, Brown spins a literary mess, with a directionless narrative, needless conceits and an unsatisfactory conclusion. A typeface switch between the ongoing narrative and characters’ reminiscences is more affectation than compelling device, and the folksy tone of the interruptions (often and troublingly in dialect) conflicts with the grittiness of the tale. Racial tension crops up occasionally—the year is 1969—but even during those moments, the tension remains slack. The resolution is halfhearted, as the questions of abuse, neglect and sanity are unresolved, and readers are left to extrapolate meaning from facet-less characters and murky writing. There is undeniable literary promise here, but it would have done better to bake through a couple more drafts. (Historical fiction. YA)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8879-3
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2009