Just like a geode, Jeremy Stone appears unremarkable on the outside, while his inner life shimmers with the complexity of glittering crystals.
Being the quiet new kid at school and the only Native American inspires other dichotomies: a folded-up note from a sympathetic classmate that gets intercepted by “the cruel ugly fucks who think they run the world.” The outside reads, “Loser” and “Welcome to Hell,” but inside, in beautiful cursive: “Don’t let the bastards get to you. Caitlan.” Caitlan becomes a touchstone, if a troubled one. Meanwhile, Jeremy imagines spiritual advice on survival from Old Man, his deceased grandfather: “Don’t say too much. / Don’t feel too much. / Don’t reveal who you are. / Don’t stay in one place too long.” Choyce’s novel traverses the difficult landscapes of identity, depression, violence, parental struggles, substance abuse, bullying, cutting and suicide with the brilliant accessibility of free verse, which may have particular appeal to reluctant readers. Jeremy’s shamanlike gift to navigate between real and spirit worlds leads him to conclude that “what is real to us / is what we believe is real.” Few would disagree, though readers’ journeys to that conclusion become difficult in the final third of the book, as the account loses focus and begins to meander.
Despite a disappointing ending, an intricate story that opens up the universe of troubled silence. (Verse/fiction. 14-18)