AMERICAN YOUTH by Phil LaMarche

AMERICAN YOUTH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An accidental shooting transforms a New England town and the lives of three boys.

Change comes fast for 14-year-old Teddy LeClare when his .22 rifle discharges in his parents’ living room. A new friend who lives in one of the fancy developments in town urged Teddy to load the gun, something he’s always known not to do. Before the cops arrive, his mother makes him swear that he will lie about what happened to anyone who asks: the police, nosy kids, even his father. Teddy finds himself a pariah among his freshman class of 600 students, for although he’s too young to have his name listed as a suspect in the local paper, their New Hampshire town is small enough that word travels fast. Teddy doesn’t care. This limbo he’s living in until the fingerprint and gunshot residue tests come back (a friendly patrolman tells him it’s not like on TV—the results could take a couple months) suits him just fine. The only thing he can feel is the super-heated top of his Bic lighter pressed tight against his skin. Unknown to Teddy, though, he has become a local hero to a self-styled America First group of teenagers, who rage against gun control and other “Federalist” restrictions. He doesn’t know what to make of them or their anti-drugs, anti-sex-before-marriage, anti-land-development credos that also seem to include opportunistic shoplifting and acts of vandalism against the rich and mighty. When they turn their pent-up aggression on the other boy under suspicion for the shooting, Teddy finds the complications of his young life suddenly compounded. Debut novelist LaMarche writes compellingly about small-town mores, and the pacing is brisk as Teddy’s life spins out of control. But the author refers to Teddy throughout as “the boy,” a narrative conceit that keeps not only the character Teddy, but also the reader, at a distance.

Flawed, but a solid start for a new novelist.

Pub Date: April 17th, 2007
ISBN: 1-4000-6605-0
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2006