A meditation on belonging, choices and denial.
Kevin, a 17-year-old runaway, dreams of living as a romantic outsider, but fellow runaways Stacey and Molly sniff him out immediately. Utterly lacking in street smarts, Kevin is too earnest by half, and he reeks of privilege. During the day, he slums it with the girls or with a group of guys who live at Crystal City’s disgusting beach, and at night, he eats well, showers and sleeps at his welcoming uncle Sydney’s house. Kevin describes Sydney as his family’s black sheep, but Sydney is in fact a charming, self-confessed criminal who cheerfully offers to kill Kevin’s dad after Kevin implies that his broken arm is his dad’s fault. Lynch’s (Inexcusable, 2005; Angry Young Man, 2011) skill at sustaining an appealing voice while slowly unveiling the extent of his protagonist’s self-deception is impressive: Kevin—a bumbler, but every bit as winning as his sociopathic uncle—is clearly suffering, but his struggles are both garden-variety and largely self-inflicted, particularly in comparison with the true desperation of Stacey, Molly and the men from the beach. It’s easy to root for Kevin, but his self-pity and often cruel choices don’t make him much of a hero.
Ultimately, readers will wonder just who they’ve been getting to know and whether they really know him at all. (Thriller. 14-17)