Tom Grendel battles unruly neighbors and honors family history, all with an eye on the girl next door, in this witty debut novel and homage to Beowulf.
The white Jewish teen actually likes his home in the “retirement mecca” of Lake Heorot in Virginia. Since his mother’s unexpected death, the older ladies in the community bake Tom casseroles, and he mows their lawns and gathers their oral histories. More important, it’s been a quiet community for Tom and his widower father, Aaron, an Iraq War vet who suffers from PTSD. But when white local newscaster Ellen Rothgar moves in and her son, Rex, and nephew, Wolf, begin to hold loud, all-night parties that trigger Aaron’s PTSD, Tom vows to rid the neighborhood of these thugs. A fine blend of quirkiness and raw emotion ensues as Tom and his neighbors wage war against one another, using fog machines, artisanal pigs, and other outlandish ammunition. Assisted by his spunky older sister and Ed, a Korean-American friend who waits tables at a knockoff American Girl cafe, Tom also hopes to save Rex’s sister, Willow, in the process. Just as in the original epic, this loyal teen confronts his own identity and memories, particularly those of his mother. He wonders if he can really know a person. Can anyone? Deep and uproarious all at once, this doesn’t require familiarity with the source material for readers to have a fine time with it.
A clever spin on a weighty classic. (Fiction. 14-adult)