A schoolyard massacre, a teenager on the lam, gross-out humor, and jabs at the media.
Two things you should know at the outset. First, the narrative voice of 15-year-old Vernon Little overwhelms everything else. Second, the story is shaped like a doughnut. We know that one summer Tuesday in the oil town of Martirio in central Texas there occurred a Columbine-style massacre, and we know the identity of the shooter, but the context of the killings is withheld until near the end: that’s the hole in the doughnut. The delayed revelation is pointless and without suspense; what happened is that Jesus Navarro, a Mexican kid and Vernon’s buddy, goaded unendurably by his classmates, mowed down 16 of them before killing himself. Vernon is being held as a possible accessory to murder, though we know our boy is innocent. In his loud whine, he tells us about his Mom, his Mom’s friends, his obsession (panties), and his predicament (no control over his bowels). His identity is filtered through favorite words (“slime,” “cream pie,” “fucken”), which capture a teenager’s self-absorption, but nothing more: there is no vision of his world. He escapes to Mexico only to be entrapped by the gorgeous Taylor, a high-school acquaintance who’s working hand-in-glove with Lally, a sinister con man who has already tricked Vern’s Mom. Flown back to Houston, Vern stands accused of 34 murders; his TV image is so familiar that viewers even connect him to others (the “suggestibility” factor). Meanwhile, Lally has set up his own Reality TV, filming Death Row inmates and having viewers decide the order of their executions. Vern is convicted, then pardoned; what saves him are his own dried turds, found miles from the crime scene (“Stool’s Out!” says Time).
Humor and mass murder make for strange bedfellows, and first-timer Pierre fails to find the tone that might harmonize them.