Email this review


A humorous look at a young rebel's fight against the deadening American dream of Southern California in the Eisenhower era. Ozzie, the 18-year-old narrator of DeMarinis's tenth book (The Voice of America, 1991, etc.), is desperately afraid of being ""the stale turd on the sparkling lawn of the prosperous nation."" It's 1953 in San Diego and many of Ozzie's fellow high school graduates are getting married, starting families, and going to work for the defense industry. His one college-bound friend is off to study physics with dreams of making H- bombs. Ozzie's girlfriend is putting pressure on him to get married, and this means becoming an apprentice in her family business -- the Darling-Vogel funeral home. Ozzie doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, but it certainly doesn't involve any of the options facing him. He passes time riding his motorcycle through the hills, bodysurfing, running over the Mexican border for drunken debauches, and, especially, listening to hot bop. Complicating matters is the fact that Ozzie has no father, just a series of stepfathers that his young mother quickly tires of, so he must go looking for fatherly advice in all sorts of unlikely places. As usual, DeMarinis expertly uses his deadpan humor to create hilarious and surreal situations with memorable one-line zingers. Yet from page one, the reader is worried not about whether Ozzie is going to get trapped into an awful life (he seems very aware of its awfulness), but how he is going to get out of it -- in other words, there's a lot riding on the ending. And after a 288-page build-up, the conclusion is encapsulated in a not very satisfying 12-page summary. Rebel Without a Cause Lite -- less filling, but leaves one longing for full-bodied satiation.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton