A teenager faces high school and parent problems in this coming-of-age YA novel.
Like all teens, Sully has some issues. Though he is an avid runner, he lives across the street from the best miler in the state, so Sully is always overlooked. His father has just declared bankruptcy; his mother is institutionalized; and the only girl who he knows has a crush on him is a child. And then there’s the ex-convict Spriggs down the street, the one who just got out of jail and is out for blood and revenge against Sully and his flailing family. Why? Sully’s dad fooled around with Spriggs’ wife while he was imprisoned. As things get worse in Sully’s life—his mother, for instance, refuses to see him while she’s in the psychiatric ward, and the family’s financial position gets even more tenuous—the teen must navigate high school and quickly mature into an adult to just deal with everything. Things aren’t “ill,” as he always says, but somehow, some way, Sully has to rectify the situation. Will everything work out so the teen can focus on the one thing he loves the most—his mile time? And will he stop rebuffing his father’s efforts to bond? Sully comes off as a jerk, but the same can be said of most teens. He’s disdainful of his parents, mostly because they don’t fit into the “perfect” family narrative he sees around him. Tays (Wannabe Distance God, 2012) certainly knows running, and even nonathletes should get swept away in the feeling of what it’s like for competitors to devote themselves to the sport. The syntax of the work, though, leaves a bit to be desired—Sully says “ill” as “his word,” and it sounds like the way an adult thinks a teen would speak and not the way he would actually communicate. Sully is awkward, and the work’s illustrations don’t flatter him. They are rudimentary and too small for the page; the book would be better off without them. Still, Sully should appeal to teens who feel the world just doesn’t understand them.
A story of overcoming youthful angst and a dysfunctional family that delivers a relatable protagonist.