In Jones’ debut novel, a wayward, alcoholic 20-something on the Jersey Shore tries to turn his life around after getting arrested.
Tony Joppa grew up in affluent Colts Neck, New Jersey, but two years after graduating from college, he’s living on the nearby shore with a friend, drinking way too much, and working at his family’s pizza place. He wants to have a higher standard of living, but he doesn’t like the idea of an office job. His life delivering pizzas at Skinny Vinnie’s leaves a lot to be desired, but one St. Patrick’s Day, it gets worse: He gets busted for driving drunk during a pizza delivery—a delivery that also included a bag of marijuana. Tony’s connected Uncle New works out a deal in which Tony will live at a halfway house, perform community service, and join the U.S. Navy for three years. Tony moves into the halfway house (called “the Last House on the Block”), joins Alcoholics Anonymous, and begins his recovery program. The house is home to a nice collection of warm but tough misfits whom Tony generally likes; his new AA sponsor says to him, “So, Tony, do you admit that you have been a complete douchebag?” Months pass, full of meetings, meditation, and new friends; eventually, he heads west to start his military service but not before a last (sober) hurrah in Las Vegas. Overall, Jones’ concise novel offers readers an engaging and fast-paced tale. Over the course of the story, the author does a very nice job of showing how the protagonist, a troubled but generally levelheaded young person, embraces an entirely new social universe in order to move forward in life. Stories about the AA experience and about military life are not uncommon, but Jones gives his narrative some originality with a no-nonsense New Jersey atmosphere and witty characters, and Tony is refreshingly self-aware as he faces different challenges. The ending comes a bit suddenly, but the protagonist’s candid voice remains enjoyable throughout.
An engaging novel that will particularly appeal to veterans, readers in recovery, and young people searching for more secure futures.