In 2003, amid boom times in Ireland, three teenagers spend the summer high on everything but life in this intense, at times nightmarish, debut.
Kearney daydreams of sick bloody mayhem, while bookish Rez sees through every facade to the pointlessness behind. Matthew is desperate for a girlfriend and destined to flop. They’re friends who have spent their last school year before college or work making trouble and getting themselves barred from their graduation ceremony. Jobless yet clearly riding the Celtic Tiger, they always have money to finance the “inevitable” idea of getting wasted. Day and night they drink and smoke pot or hash in truly striking quantities, with occasional detours for cocaine or Ecstasy. Vomit and most other bodily emissions are never far away, either from the main characters or any one of the junkies, drunkards, and street people strewn about Dublin’s fair city. While there are many darkly comic moments—a junkie’s volume of poetry is called “Molesting Your Inner Child”—the book isn’t for the squeamish, especially with regard to Kearney’s more extreme fantasies and three sickening deaths. The young men’s mischief takes an inevitable uglier turn when Kearney’s beating of a junkie leads to worse. Doyle’s take on the angst and awkward bonding of young males is strong enough that it highlights how little he has on the female side, essentially one solid but unexplored character. Still, he skillfully stokes suspense amid considerable repetition and makes these nasty slackers occasionally even elicit sympathy. He also makes sure they’re not stupid, which highlights the fact that their choices are. For many parents this could be an eye-opening, admonitory read—if they aren’t as unbelievably blind as the parents in the book.
Rough in its language, physical violence, and reminders of youth’s potential for anything, the book joins a respectable literary line dating back to A Clockwork Orange, if not Tom Jones and Vanity Fair.