In debut author Viceconte’ coming-of-age novel, a teenager’s attempt at redemption leads him from suburbia to jail to a shaky future.
How did David, a 16-year-old with a loving father who grew up in the safe suburbs of Connecticut, come to get caught trying to transport four pounds of marijuana out of New York City? Prior to his arrest, David had been kicked out of a boarding school in New Hampshire for fighting and was having trouble adjusting to life back in Connecticut. He felt like a stranger in his hometown and was failing most of his classes. Lucky for David, in the eyes of the law, he is a minor, and in the eyes of his father, James, he is a smart kid who made a mistake. James sends David to a program for troubled teens called Blue Ridge Outdoors. David will hike in the woods, learn how to start a fire without matches, and become accustomed to life without cigarettes. The exorbitant program is run by a shifty, closeted alcoholic named Paul, but where else can a boy with a violent past and a rap sheet straighten out? The opening chapters of the book, in which the reader learns about David and his degenerate friends, teems with characters Bret Easton Ellis might have dreamed up. The problem is that even the most degenerate of the bunch—a boy named Steven who gets into his own drug-fueled trouble with the law—would likely get laughed out of Less Than Zero for being too soft. The story picks up immensely with David’s departure for Blue Ridge Outdoors. Ellis (and writers who emulate him) have created young people that have done unspeakable things, but what would happen if you sent such youngsters into the forest for reform? David’s time in the program is full of possibilities. David is told not to concern himself with what lies ahead (“No FI, No Future Information” one of his counselors explains), and the reader, likewise, is kept guessing about how things will unfold for the reckless teenager. The suspense comes in finding out what David must do to succeed and what kind of person he’ll be when it’s all over.
The protagonist’s troubled back story is well-trod territory, but his uncertain future keeps things lively.