Maillard (Alex Driving South) is a sweetly recollective writer, able to capture both the physical and psychological ungainlinesses of youth. So some Of this talent goes into the apparently autobiographical portrait here of John Dupre, who suffers a late-1950s West Virginia purgatory of adolescent horniness, drunkenness, mortifications of the flesh (long-distance running), and mysticism. A fairly typical bright, teenaged male? Well, not quite. Because Dupre also has a predilection for young girls of 13 and 14--and he's smart enough to suspect that this preference may have something to do with his not-completely-clear idea of his own gender. Unfortunately, however, though Maillard handles this coming-of-age quirk with admirable perception, it's the only aspect of the novel that approaches fully-realized fiction. The rest, in fact, is sadly unshaped teenage agony and ecstasy. And it hardly helps that the prose is often garlanded with oppressively pretentious seriousness: ""And the distance between my hope of love and the reality of it felt as great as that from the top of the Tree of the Sepheroth where the force pours in so purely as to remain nameless to the reversal at the bottom where there's nothing left but demons and empty husks."" A disappointing follow-up, then, to Alex Driving South--with occasional reminders of Maillard's still-promising potential.