NORTHERN LIGHTS by Raymond Strom

NORTHERN LIGHTS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In 1997, a Minnesota teenager searches for his mother amid the temptation of sex and drugs.

Strom’s debut novel follows Shane Stephenson, who's trying to find his mother following the sudden death of his father. Shane’s mother abandoned them a long time ago, leaving her son a $100 bill and sending him a Christmas card with a return address in Holm, Minnesota. Shane has long hair and an androgynous appearance, and he clearly doesn’t fit into the small town of Holm, where he's gone looking for his mother. The people there vilify homosexuality, and femininity is not welcome in anyone other than a woman. He quickly meets a group of teenagers that includes Jenny, J, Mary, Sven, and Russell. As it goes with teenagers, the members of the group engage in a series of romances. Sven stands out as the town bully, cruelly attacking Shane both verbally and physically every time he sees him, calling him “faggot” whenever he can, and organizing a parade with his friends dressed in traditional Klan attire holding Confederate flags and screaming for freedom and justice. Although Shane came to Holm with the specific goal of finding his mother, who turns out to have left just over a year ago, he quickly falls prey to the activities of bored teenagers in small towns: He starts up a drunken relationship with Russell, shoots up speed with J as often as he can, and deepens his relationship with Jenny between fixes. Strom paints a portrait of small-town life that is sure to make readers shiver. He sets up a narrative space in which a young boy is looking for his mother and quickly swerves, giving us death, alcohol, addiction, drugs, sex, bigotry, all wrapped up in the neat package that makes up Holm. Shane is heartbreaking, and readers will have a hard time parting with him after the book is over.

A powerful depiction of the currency of intolerance and addiction in one small town.

Pub Date: Feb. 12th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5011-9029-2
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2019




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