Outside of Munich in the summer of 1994, four teenage boys find a fortune that changes their lives.
Boredom and anomie define the lives of Jonathan, Sam, Schulz and Eric. They want to get out of the suburbs, maybe get an apartment in the city. They know their lives aren’t that great—skateboarding, getting stoned, playing video games, hating school. Then they break into an abandoned house and find old, yellowing envelopes stuffed with money, lots of money. What do the boys think to do with their sudden good fortune? Well, thinking things through isn’t really how they proceed. At first, it’s just buying everything on the McDonald’s menu, buying (and stealing) tons of T-shirts and hoodies, and having plenty of cigarette money. But things devolve into partying, drug dealing and thoughts of car theft—there are no reasonable plans for putting the money to good use. Translated from German, the story really happened, at least in its basic plot and main events, and Mattheis effectively delineates four teenagers’ lives of quiet desperation, tracing the effects of an unearned fortune on their dreams of something better. Choosing to have Jonathan relate the story several years later gives the narrative a much-needed perspective, a chance for a character to reflect on the significance of the events he’s lived through.
A nuanced character study with no easy answers. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)