Teenaged delinquents spin their minor lives into unremarkable oblivion.
Newcomer Robinson has a thing for the idiosyncrasies and bad weather of Maine, a love that’s expressed rather bittersweetly through these 11 stories. The title piece has several telling elements in it, though it remains one of the author’s less successful efforts. In it, two teen hoodlums are mucking about in a teen hoodlum kind of way, shooting bottle-rockets over a road: “Ziegler was into cheap thrills, like me, and cared only about not getting caught.” Thusly, the narrator ends up in the car of a police officer who, not much later, will be having a heart attack in the snow. In “Seeing the World” and “Puckheads,” weak-willed narrators still in their formative, if not high school, years, are paired off with more charismatic best friends who, after brief and depressing struggles, walk off with the girl. Standing out from the others is the introductory story, “The Diver,” in which a yuppie, restaurant-owning couple hires a diver to clear a snag off their boat’s propeller. In the manner of all yuppies-in-peril stories from “Knife in the Water” onward, the resentful, working-class diver does the job he’s been hired for, but hangs around, not-so-subtly and dangerously hinting at how much he envies the couple’s lives. Violence lurks in every line of this piece, an efficient little tale that’s unsettling for all its predictability. There are few high spots and just about no low ones in Robinson’s debut, with most of his prose hitting somewhere in a respectable middle. He conveys the cold, odd loneliness of a small Maine town without belaboring the point, but needs to find a different paradigm for his teenagers, always running after their cooler friend and the girl who got away.
A fine first effort that could have used a little more ambition.