When a high school boy obsessed with quantum physics suddenly disappears, friends and neighbors reveal details of their lives as they speculate on his whereabouts.
When Tommy Smythe’s abandoned motorbike is found by the side of the road in a clearing known as the Stillwell pullout, the local sheriff begins his investigation by questioning residents of the small Texas town. The first-person interviews are interspersed with third-person stories of others who had nominally come into contact with Tommy or the pullout, as well as excerpts from Tommy’s journal, in which he wrote his musings about parallel universes. Tommy’s disappearance serves as an unsubtle metaphor for the alienation and frustration found in the lives of the people around him, who also sometimes wish they could vanish or escape to another dimension. Among these are Kimmie Jo, who is tired of not having her Mexican heritage recognized; Alvin, who wants to break free from his abusive father; Jake, who doesn’t know if he’s brave enough to leave the family farm for college; and Tara, who is trying to forgive her dead father for the secret double life that led to his murder. While the novel’s concept and structure are thought-provoking, the prose is often repetitive and mundane.
Still, readers interested in physics or drawn to character-driven stories may find something here to like, even though Tommy and his fate remain ciphers. (Fiction. 14-18)