Cars, cops, capers, and (beer) cans feature in this novelistic memoir set in the late 1980s.
In every gang of friends, each person takes on a specific role. Debut author Trebing was his group’s storyteller, often regaling them with anecdotes about growing up in North Babylon, New York, on Long Island. Later, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Beth Whitehouse told his family’s story when she wrote The Match (2010), about their quest to save their daughter from a rare disease. That book, and his own lifelong habit of journaling, inspired this memoir of his late teens, when he questioned what he wanted out of life. Trebing writes in the third person, occasionally moving among the perspectives of different people until a first-person epilogue. This unusual approach is disconcerting at first, but then the engaging story takes over. Trebing revisits four periods in his life: 1986, when he was 15 and built a fort with six friends; the following year, when he went on an ill-starred, epic, cross-island bike expedition; 1989, when he took part in a hectic scavenger hunt; and between 1989 and 1993, during his years at the State University of New York at Oswego, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Along the way, the author depicts a diverse group of amiable young men with a propensity for good-natured pranks. They loved cars and bicycles, building things, and goofing around. They liked their beer—sometimes a bit too much. They got into hair-raising scrapes but stuck together in adversity. Automobiles and police officers feature in almost every story—most memorably, Trebing’s retelling of a none-too-gentle arrest by Oswego cops who’d seen him kick a pay phone. The author has a feel for narrative tension, cleverly breaking up the slight stories to ensure there are always enticing cliffhangers that propel readers onward. He rotates among the four time frames to help keep that tension taut. The stories’ grammar is less assured, though, and the dialogue can sometimes feel overly formal and unrealistic. Nevertheless, once readers get caught up in these high-spirited tales, they’ll likely enjoy the ride.
Engaging coming-of-age stories that recall the fun of teenage friendships.