If the local chemical plant killed your father and used your backyard as a dumping ground, you’d want revenge, too.
With an opening scene featuring powerful rain, sulfur in the wind and “steamy chemical sludge,” the overwritten dystopian novel immediately comes to mind. But this gritty debut depicts the reality of a toxic town. Fourteen-year-old narrator Jason’s father died in an “accident” after speaking out against the chemical plant that rules the town, and his mother has turned to food for comfort. It is his quest to take down the chemical plant. Also hungry for revenge are friends Charlie and Cornpup, who also bear the scars the chemical plant has left on the town. Reminiscent of The Outsiders (and not just because of Cornpup’s unusual name), the story concentrates on the boys’ tight bond and how they both embrace and fight against the danger in their lives. The most stunning part of the story remains the visceral descriptions (“a trail of green puddles that never dry up; a rusty railcar full of weird, smelly rocks; and a perfect square of earth where you can dig for hours without seeing a single insect”) that ooze throughout. The teens’ Freak Museum, filled with mutated animals, equally repels and fascinates. Because of these strengths, the abrupt ending is disappointing, but it does not discount the story as a compelling read.
Dark and unflinching. (Fiction. 14 & up)