WAR BOY by Thorn Kief Hillsbery


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There's an overload of energy surging through this nevertheless soulfulsentimental first novel, narrated in bursts of ingenuous short sentences by Radboy, a 14yearold black deaf mute from Monterey, California, on the road in flight from his violently abusive father. At first accompanying his gay pal Jonnyboy, Radboy makes it to San Francisco, where he hooks up with several other (mostly gay or bisexual) comrades; checks out the pleasures and dangers of crack cocaine, skateboarding, and his own understandably confused sexuality; and eventually enlists in elaborately planned guerrilla warfare against a corporation that is ruthlessly plundering California's redwood forests. Hillsbery's style is an initially bewildering conflation of lean, swift narrative (especially effective at the novel's catastrophic climax) and meandering wistful meditation, which appears at its most egregious in the rap lyriclike poems that preface every chapter. A little of James Leo Herlihy and early Hubert Selby Jr., and a whole lot of John Rechy. But it grows on you—and the engagingly inchoate Radboy is a touchingly real and likable creation.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2000
ISBN: 0-688-17141-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2000