A West Texas teen comes of age in New York City in a compelling, modernist narrative that's more a nostalgic adult novel than a YA adventure.
Narrator Chance Bailey's father Harry never returned from WWII, even though he survived, and Chance's lonely mother plans to marry the sanctimonious and abusive Reverend Brown–a marriage that Chance dreads and violently opposes. When word arrives that Harry could well be in New York City, Chance high-tales it out of Eula, Texas. Ignoring his pious mother's pleas, Chance makes the journey, moves into the YMCA and searches desultorily for his father. Meanwhile, he befriends a nihilistic Jewish artist, a mentally shattered Nobel laureate who's escaped from the Siberian Gulag, a gay choreographer, and a stripper-turned-Rockette with Mafia connections: sin city, just as Chance's Baptist mother feared. Throughout his dangerous quest, Chance frequently ponders (near-incestuously) his mother's loneliness, all while he learns life lessons about love and forgiveness. Just like New York itself, Harry Bailey turns out to be outsized, heroic and sinful in equal parts. The conclusion effectively combines despair, emotional growth, and farce and, in the end, is quite satisfying.
Philosophical musings in Chance's fascinating and distinct voice create a tale that, while not the conceptually traditional young-adult novel, is certainly accessible to that audience and, perhaps, to an adult one as well. Midnight Cowboy with a teenage protagonist: make that movie.