Ever true to his transgressive muse, Cooper opens another shop of horrors suitable to follow his five-novel cycle (Period, 2000, etc.), here coupling sexually involved teenaged brothers with a post-Columbine world skanky enough to strike dread into the heart of any parent of adolescents.
Larry, tormented and confused, thinks he has killed his best buddy Rand with a single punch delivered because his friend seemed to have a thing for his younger brother Jim. Guilt drives him, a year later, to use the punch again, this time to fulfill a contract taken out on a schoolmate—pimped to gays by his mother and slashed by her for her own pleasure—who’s not really keen to live anyway, then buries the boy near the family vacation cabin of his girlfriend Jude. Confusion—about his relationships with Jim, Rand, and his drunken rival Pete—sours his relationship with Jude, whom he suspects of fooling around with Pete. But uncertainty about his sexual identity goes much deeper: Larry also tries to fool around with Pete, takes another male friend on a “date” only to beat him up and let the school’s leading Nazi rape him, and visits the teenaged daughter of his therapist in her bedroom, all the while trying to parse just what is going on between him and Jim. Whatever it is, Jim seems to be on top. Larry learns that he didn’t kill Rand, that in fact Rand committed suicide, and that the other boy he thought he’d killed was actually strangled by Pete. But instead of making him feel better, the news has the result of impelling him to shoot his cancer-ridden dad and drunken mom in their living room—while Jim is on the phone with his therapist.
Enough glimpses of the familiar to make a skin-crawling read. In spite of the taboos being flaunted, this is a remarkable portrait of a soul in hell.