A boy with a tragic past comes of age in Las Vegas.
"Asians can't figure me out, and it drives them nuts. I'm like Asian, but stretched tall. Long body, small features. Curly dark hair. Like one of those long-necked aliens with a wig." Self-esteem is not Walter Stahl's long suit, but at 17, he hasn't had much to make him feel good about himself. His mother, Emily, took off when he was 5 in the wake of a tragedy that left his father, already damaged by loss, ruined beyond repair. Imagining that Emily has fled to Las Vegas, father and son follow her there—but the years pass without any sign. These days, Walter is scanning for Vietnamese-looking women among the visitors who tour the Viva Las Vegas! museum, where he's a guide. In parallel with his tale is woven an earlier narrative, one that tracks Emily from the time she backed out of the driveway in her blue Volvo and hit the road. Parts of the story are told in graphic novel form, which works quite well, and there are also reproductions of pages from Walter's sketchbook. His favorite subjects are two human statues at the Venice Venice hotel, Apollo and Diana, who turn out to be a brother and sister from Greece. "I've spent hours studying his body....the deep cleft of his hairless chest, the line that begins at his hip and swoops down to touch upon his fig leaf and curve back up to the other hip, that shadow that runs along the side of his thigh from his knee to the perfect roundness of his ass...." Clearly, Walter's on the verge of learning something new about himself. Sie's debut novel is a bit weighed down by all the darkness he's loaded in: there are too many deaths and betrayals, too many back stories and digressions, too many Greek myths; also, it's disappointing when a major plotline turns out to be a fantasy.
Tries too hard to do too much but is likable anyway.