DeRoche reimagines Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in modern Los Angeles.
The story starts, like Twain’s, in St. Petersburg, Missouri. There, Huckleberry Finn is looking to get loose of his abusive father, Pap, who has a get-rich-quick scheme that involves moving to Los Angeles. Huck can’t get away before Pap bundles them both into their camper to head west. Soon, the youngster finds out that his father is involved in a drug deal, which goes sour. However, Huck and his new friend, Tom Sawyer, find a way for the LAPD to capture the drug kingpin; the boys collect a reward while Pap goes on the lam. A judge then puts Huck in the care of a lesbian couple, Miss Watson and Ms. Douglas, who try to “civilize” Huck, just as their namesakes did in the original novel. Huck also finds himself drawn to his new friend, Miguel, a stable hand and undocumented immigrant. Pap had always told Huck that so-called “Mexigrants” were ruining the country and that homosexuality was evil—but in Los Angeles, Huck sees the wrongness of these notions. Pap resurfaces to try to get some of Huck’s reward, and he injures Ms. Watson and Ms. Douglas in the process. Miguel defends Huck and fends off Pap, who appears to be dead. Because Miguel is undocumented, he can’t tell his side of the story to police. He and Huck wind up traversing LA’s man-made rivers, meeting helpful folks and rapscallions. Overall, this is a charming, politically minded tale. What DeRoche truly understands about the Huck Finn character is his outsider’s perspective. For example, the book addresses a range of explosive topics, such as religion, revolution, electoral politics, and even a bit of reality television, but because Huck is encountering all of these things for the first time, he has no preconceived notions about any of them. This allows the author to mine different situations for pointed humor without ever turning the narrative into an obvious polemic. Along the way, debut illustrator González’s occasional black-and-white, woodcut-style images are nice additions.
A smart, highly entertaining update on a classic story.