A young man begins keeping a diary to improve his humdrum existence—just days before love, violence and loss consume his life.
In Wills’ page-turning debut novel, 27-year-old Marco begins a diary in order to “assess and improve [his] state of mind” so he can take “[f]ortune by the throat.” There’s a somewhat ominous tone to the writing; it’s clear that Marco is in for some major changes, but the relatable narrator doesn’t know it yet. Through his dead-end job at a grocery store, Marco meets Bernie, a broke old man who is desperate for a friend. Taking pity on him, Marco gives Bernie a pack of cigarettes, a kind act that sets off a wild series of events. Other characters include Natalie—a charming girl who lives in Marco’s apartment building—Natalie’s rough-around-the-edges brother, and Bernie’s ne’er-do-well grandson and son-in-law. Once Bernie realizes that Marco is trustworthy, he ropes him into a dangerous situation: keeping a large sum of money hidden from Bernie’s grandson until the teenager can cut ties with his toxic father, Bernie’s son-in-law. Marco is less than thrilled to be the middleman, but he decides to help out Bernie—until Marco makes a grave error in judgment that causes his life to quickly fall apart. The plot moves rapidly, but Wills manages to fully flesh out each of his major characters. Marco is a darkly humorous narrator and his strong voice carries the novel, while Bernie and Natalie are often scene-stealing characters. Wills does an excellent job creating tension, introducing unexpected plot twists that propel the story forward. The diary style allows Marco to reflect on the events of his life after they occur, adding insight and weight to the action. Wills enjoyably explores the fallout that can result from seemingly small decisions.
A well-drawn narrator, fast-paced plot and dark humor make Wills’ debut a promising one.