Six months after Mom’s death in a car accident, Sam copes with a new disability from that accident, a cryptic boy, family dysfunction, and peer violence.
Sam walks on crutches now. Pain regularly “whiplashes” up her leg, bringing with it shards of memory from that “firestorm of glass and steel”—the accident she doesn’t remember. Her brother gets high and screams back and forth with their perky sister, while checked-out Dad eats junk food. Enter new boy Eliot, all “pale mystery, sharp-cheekboned stares, and supercilious slouching”—and verbal prickliness. Eliot has congenital insensitivity to pain—he feels no physical pain—but he also exhibits social peculiarity (far beyond awkwardness, well into hurtfulness) and emotional wounds; some of Tims’ definitions of disability, trauma, and accountability are murky. Likewise with the antagonist: Anthony (a “magazine-blond, Polo-wearing” drug dealer with a Yale scholarship and a “coffee-soft polite threat voice”) commits extreme violence wearing an expression of “nothingness” but is also merely “a boy scared of losing his image.” Because she didn’t save Mom, Sam’s determined to save Eliot, however he acts. Her first-person voice is funny and absorbing. In this “upper-middle-class town in the whitest state in the country,” whiteness is standard except that Mom was half Hawaiian (a detail that’s never explicated).
Wry and engrossing, though jumbled. (Fiction. 13-16)