In Grey-Sun’s (Broken Angels, 2012) novel set in an ambiguously dark future, a high school wrestler deals with girl problems, bullies and intense visions.
After attending a wild party, Robert, a quiet but tough high school wrestler, finds himself in an increasingly large mess. His girlfriend, Leigh, is upset that he went to the party without her, and he tries to think of ways to make it up to her. Plus, upon leaving the party, he finds his best friend, Davin, passed out in the snow. As Davin recovers in the hospital, Robert has no one to talk to about his problems with Leigh—or about the strange things he’s been seeing lately: living snowmen, bodies stripped of their skin, his own hair removing itself from his head in a whirlwind of color. He suspects that they’re hallucinations brought on by his strangely strong acne medication, and these visions will likely be just as mystifying for readers. The story takes place in an alternate or near-future America in which the president has been murdered by the first lady, resulting in heightened security around the country. Robert also lives in a deeply intolerant part of Virginia, where race issues between black students and white students are magnified; Robert is black and Leigh is white, which means they have to keep their relationship secret. When Robert’s visions start to affect his wrestling performance, he’s hit with jeers from both his white and black teammates. Three types of stories seem to be competing here—fantasy, realism and dystopia—with little connection among them, which may strike readers as overly ambitious and confusing. As a result, the story might have been better served by either developing the relationships among the separate plotlines or by taking one approach—the realistic elements here are the strongest—and focusing on that single aspect of Robert’s life.
A gritty story of a tough boy in a bad situation, weighed down by its competing genres.