It's an ill-omened start, when seventeen-year-old Charles Grover gets caught by his father trying to murder his mother -- only to have her die independently the next day. What he encounters on his grim, unnecessary lam across Canada (a seedy old-age home, a yet more senescent pleasure hotel) only confirms the worst imaginings of a teenager with a bad attitude, much as the aborted murder clinched his opinion of himself. The signal thing about Charles, though it's never mentioned, is his lack of experience: even the little we see happening to him is so instantly sponged up into his dour preconceptions that the whole world seems infected with his apathy and lethargy. It takes a great trauma to lever the story into action. Yet catastrophe to Charles' true love comes as no more of a surprise than that he should have found her to begin with; and the ending, resolving Charles' tale with an even less plausible sub-plot, is an instance of fantasy pumped up to bursting -- imitation apotheosis -- just as the foregoing was a flat-tired impersonation of real life. Meant to be unpleasant -- succeeding past the author's wildest dreams.