In the first young-adult novel in a projected series, Lopez documents the life and loves of Hermie Brambleweed, a teenager dealing with typical high school drama—and some big secrets.
In this slightly dated coming-of-age story, Lopez introduces the world to Hermie. He’s an amazingly self-sufficient kid who proves to be a classic teenage boy in many respects: He hates his job, spends most of his time hanging out with friends, gets drunk on the sly and sneaks into his girlfriend Jane’s room as often as possible. But Hermie is keeping secrets. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and Hermie lives alone in a big house with a large trust fund administered by his grandparents. He is also guarding a cache of documents hidden in the basement by his meticulous father—files that could land a large chemical company in big trouble. Despite these secrets and the potential pitfalls of autonomy, Hermie flies under the radar by maintaining a job, studying hard, keeping house and living responsibly. As the story moves chronologically through Hermie’s sophomore and junior years, Lopez keeps the focus on Hermie’s passions (bowling and Jane) while entertaining readers with the antics of Hermie and his friends. There’s potential for great tension in Hermie’s story, but Lopez, alluding to the threat of discovery and danger, misses the opportunity to build suspense by focusing on Hermie’s daily routine rather than his tantalizing secrets. Although the cast of characters is strong, the dialogue feels forced at times, possibly the result of a confused timeline. Lopez doesn’t set the narrative in a specific year, but terms such as “cats” and “chicks” call to mind a bygone era, and he peppers the dialogue with references to cassette tapes and answering machines rather than iPods and cellphones. However, issues relating to sex and drugs remain relevant to modern teenagers, and Lopez addresses them in a tactful, realistic fashion.
A lovable lead character and the hint of mystery make this trip down Memory Lane pleasurable enough to leave readers anticipating the next chapter.