Fed up with their traumatic lives, two distraught teenagers run away from home but find that life on their own is not what they expected.
Shelton Cole and Richie Kemp are two de facto brothers that have been having a rough go of it lately. Shelton’s family was recently devastated by the loss of their older son John. Since then, Shelton’s parents, consumed by their grief, have behaved as if Shelton doesn’t exist. Richie hasn’t had it any easier—his father was incarcerated as a mobster in New York City, and he and his mother fled to New Hampshire in search of a new life. Unfortunately, all Richie found was an alcoholic, abusive stepfather. Finally the boys, bound by their sense of alienation at home and school, take action—Richie beats up the school bully in a public fight and then commits an even more shocking act at home the next morning. Panic-stricken, he steals his stepfather’s car, and Shelton and Richie strike out for Mexico. At first, the open road and the romantic life of hoboes is fun for the two. Unfortunately, their trip ends even more nightmarishly than their escape from home began. Fast-forward 15 years, and Shelton is back in New Hampshire to reconnect with Richie at their “30 year caucus.” Jarvis does a nice job of staggering the present-day action—Shelton as an adult—with flashbacks from the boys’ teenage years. His humane rendering of teenagers in crisis presents Shelton and Richie as sympathetic characters that draw in the reader, and concern for the pair will pull the reader through the book despite some slow sections. Entertaining and heartfelt, Jarvis’ tale would work particularly well for young adult readers, though it might be too dark for some.
A thoughtful and empathetic book about young men in crisis—well worth a read, especially for teenagers.