TOO COOL by Duff Brenna

TOO COOL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Willard Motley’s Knock on Any Door (“Live fast, die young, and make a good-looking corpse”) gets shifted from big-city slums to Colorado small towns and Denver by the self-assured Brenna (The Holy Book of the Beard, 1996, etc.), who moves like cat through the roiling minds and bodies of his adolescent characters. Brenna does a strong job with his young hoods and their girlfriends, though his stabs at feeding Kafka and the farm poetry of Chouinard into his hero, the too-cool Triple E (a.k.a. Elbert Earl Evans), feel forced. The story opens with the 16-year-old Triple E having busted out of Goodpastures Correctional Facility, stolen a car, and met up with his girl Jeanne Marie Windriver, his young cousin Ava, and her boyfriend Tom Patch. Nearly broke, the four get lost in a blizzard in the Rockies, need food and gas, and of course are driving this stolen Oldsmobile. These are kids for whom any fantasy presents itself as a good plan. Pulling out from a gas station after not paying, the now-threesome (Ava’s left, never to return) find themselves chased by cops. Triple E chooses to avoid a roadblock by turning off onto an unplowed sideroad, where the car stalls in heavy snow. Tom Patch sets out for the highway to find a farm—and a four-wheeler to haul them out—and is never seen again. Triple E heads off the other way, leaving Jeanne in the car with the heater on, and at last finds an abandoned farmhouse, where he builds a fire. He returns for Jeanne, who is half-dead from asphyxia. Fed into this simple plotline, background scenes show Triple E‘s horrible parents, his hunger for thoughtless violence, his hobbies (boxing, poetry), and sundry unpleasantnesses as his romance with Jeanne turns into a Colorado Romeo and Juliet on adrenalin. Brenna marvelously balances social sketches with man-against-nature blizzard scenes. But, like Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, E’s a hard kid to care about.

Pub Date: July 13th, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-48971-4
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1998




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