33 Snowfish

33 Snowfish

5.0 7
by Adam Rapp, Timothy Basil Ering, Timothy Basil Ering
     
 

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"Adam Rapp's brilliant and haunting story will break your heart. But then his words will mend it. . . . Absolutely unforgettable." - Michael Cart

On the run in a stolen car with a kidnapped baby in tow, Custis, Curl, and Boobie are three young people with deeply troubled pasts and bleak futures. As they struggle to find a new life for themselves,

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Overview

"Adam Rapp's brilliant and haunting story will break your heart. But then his words will mend it. . . . Absolutely unforgettable." - Michael Cart

On the run in a stolen car with a kidnapped baby in tow, Custis, Curl, and Boobie are three young people with deeply troubled pasts and bleak futures. As they struggle to find a new life for themselves, it becomes painfully clear that none of them will ever be able to leave the past behind. Yet for one, redemption is waiting in the unlikeliest of places.

With the raw language of the street and lyrical, stream-of-consciousness prose, Adam Rapp hurtles the reader into a world of lost children, a world that is not for the faint of heart. Gripping, disturbing, and starkly illuminating, his hypnotic narration captures the voices of two damaged souls - a third speaks only through drawings - to tell a story of alienation, deprivation, and ultimately, the saving power of compassion.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"On top of everything else, Boobie's got the clap," begins Rapp's (Little Chicago) dark tale about three runaways who understand hatred and violence better than love. Custis, an orphan, is fleeing from his "owner," a producer of pornography and snuff films. Custis is accompanied by Curl, a child prostitute, and her boyfriend, Boobie, who has just murdered his parents and kidnapped his baby brother to sell on the streets. Drawn together more by desperation than friendship, they roam from one town to the next, stealing and scavenging. Alternating first-person narratives graphically express Custis's and Curl's histories of abuse and exploitation. Boobie remains more of a mystery, revealing troubled thoughts through pictures rather than words (Ering's line illustrations are meant to recreate Boobie's sketches). Signs of hope do not appear until two of the three children have lost their lives and the lone survivor, touched by a stranger's kindness, faces options that could change his fate. Readers may have trouble stomaching the language (e.g., "He was a dirty-ass little half-nigger, too-a lot dirtier than me"), as well as the horrors so flatly depicted and, in the end, so handily overcome. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 15-up. (Mar.)
Children's Literature
Custis, Curl, and Boobie are on the run in a stolen car, trying to sell a baby with no name. The baby is Boobie's little sister, and Custis is pretty sure that Boobie has killed his own parents. So begins this blunt and brutally honest story of young lives gone awry. Effectively told through alternating viewpoints, we gradually come to know the focal narrator, Custis, a loner who is attracted to Boobie's stoic charisma, and Curl, a teenage prostitute with a drug habit. Boobie's chapters are simple drawings, disturbing renderings that have sprung like mutant weeds out of his violent personal history. The device is devastatingly effective, as we are slowly but surely drawn into adolescents' lives that hold no hope. Yet hope is exactly what remains after Custis loses the little he has, and for the first time forges a relationship with a decent grownup, an elderly man named Seldom. Though some may be taken aback by the chilling frankness of the language, there can be no doubt that Adam Rapp has crafted a memorable retrospective of today's lost generation. 2003, Candlewick Press,
— Christopher Moning
KLIATT
As this grim novel opens, three young people, Custis, Curl, and Boobie, are on the run in a stolen car with a kidnapped baby. Custis, "dirty and foolish and a nasty little hooligan," is a young runaway who has led a frighteningly awful life, including slavery and sexual abuse; he is the main narrator. We also hear from Curl, a teenage drug-addicted prostitute, who later dies in an abandoned van, but we see only depressing drawings from Boobie, a silent older boy who is a pyromaniac who has killed his parents. Boobie later vanishes in a snowstorm. In their spray-painted Skylark, the three set out from Illinois through the cold winter toward Wisconsin, carting the baby in a hollowed-out TV set. Foul-mouthed, ignorant, and racist, spouting words like "nigger" and "shit" freely, Custis finds an unlikely redemption when he encounters an elderly African American man named Seldom while trying to steal a chicken from him. Seldom takes in Custis and the baby to live with him on his Itty Bitty Farm, and at last Custis finds a home. Playwright and YA author (Missing the Piano, The Buffalo Tree, and other novels) Rapp has created a unique and surprisingly lyrical voice to tell his tale of hitting bottom and then unexpectedly finding kindness in the world. Not for every taste, but the grittiness and realistic dialogue here may help this bleak though ultimately uplifting novel find a readership. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Candlewick Press, 192p. illus.,
— Paula Rohrlick
VOYA
With Smack (Henry Holt, 1998/VOYA February 1998), Melvin Burgess invited readers on a runaway ride with two teen heroin addicts, and although critics questioned his methodology, the antidrug messages penciled between the lines were apparent. Rapp addresses similar issues here with edge and poetry, evoking a message of hope. When preteen drifter Custis meets fifteen-year-old Curl and her boyfriend, Boobie, the abandoned youths attempt survival as a tight threesome. Silent and mysterious, Boobie is the group's leader, with drug-addicted Curl and Custis willing followers on an aimless journey through the Midwest. Curl and Custis narrate in alternating chapters, with morbid images attributed to Boobie (actually the work of illustrator Timothy B. Ering) providing readers with a chilling depiction of the group's deterioration. Rapp employs street vernacular in a narrative that is sophisticated and poetic. Custis and Curl allude to their past situations as the "property" of adults-Curl worked as a prostitute for her aunt and Custis was kept and abused as a ghetto-ized houseboy. Although the descriptions of their actions are not graphic, the detachment with which the characters explain their circumstances is chilling. As in E. R. Frank's America (Simon & Schuster, 2002/VOYA February 2002), readers are exposed to the realities of the young and poor, for whom survival is a singular preoccupation. The novel ends hopefully; however, the salvation described might not be the fairy-tale ending readers have been taught to imagine. This novel might not appeal to all readers, but it deserves a place beside young adult classics such as Alice Childress's A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich (Coward, McCann,and Geoghegan, 1973). VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Candlewick, 192p, Pattee
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-The opening sentence sets the hook: "On top of everything else, Boobie's got the clap." He is the eldest of a quartet of kids on the run. The "everything else" consists of the fact that he has killed his parents, stolen their car, and hooked up with Curl, 15, a prostitute. They take in the younger Custis, who has recently escaped from sexual bondage with an abusive pedophile. Lastly, the youngest traveler, Boobie's infant brother, is regarded as a likely source of income-if they can find a buyer. Depraved and depressing? Oh yeah, and the shocks just keep on coming. The fearsome elements escape the pages like nightmares loosed into daylight. Custis carries a loaded gun and is a racist who frequently uses offensive epithets. Curl, a drug addict, is pragmatic about using her body to make money. Boobie is not much of a talker, and is a pyromaniac whose occasional, naive, and brutal drawings speak for him. Things get worse before they get better. Seldom, an elderly black man, helps Custis bury the dead, celebrate Christmas, and take his first tentative steps toward a "normal" child/adult relationship. Spare descriptions and stellar characterization reel readers into the dark and violent world of these dispossessed and abused young people. This book will be controversial, but for those readers who are ready to be challenged by a serious work of shockingly realistic fiction, it invites both an emotional and intellectual response, and begs to be discussed.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The bleak scenery of winter forms the backdrop to this tale of three runaways, bonded together to grasp feebly for emotional warmth. The reader meets Custis, Curl, and Boobie as they speed down the back roads of Illinois in a stolen car, with a stolen baby. Alternating narratives move back and forth through time, obliquely telling the characters’ individual stories even as their current drama unfolds. Custis is homeless, a fugitive from a child-porn producer; Curl is a drug-addicted prostitute; Boobie is a virtual cipher--his contributions to the narrative consist of increasingly violent and nihilistic sketches--who, the reader learns, has just killed his well-to-do parents and made off with his baby brother. They have no destination other than to get away from where they’ve been; they have a vague plan of selling the baby and using the money to set themselves up comfortably. Their "plan" is doomed from the start: the three, plus the baby, end up in an abandoned van in the middle of the woods, where first Curl dies and then Boobie vanishes into the snow. It is at this moment that Custis and the baby are taken in by Seldom, an ancient and eccentric black man who lives in a cabin and who begins to show Custis that maybe there is another way to live. With his customary ear for the language of the marginalized teen, Rapp (Little Chicago, 2002, etc.) allows his characters to present themselves with total un-self-consciousness, frankly and powerfully laying out the squalor of their existence without any seeming sense that life can be anything else but squalid. Seldom may himself seem rather like deus ex machina from a plotting perspective, but he serves to save both Custis and the narrativefrom utter annihilation. The snug warmth of Seldom’s home and the little family he and Custis and the baby have formed contrasts powerfully with the frigid internal winter that Custis has survived, allowing both Custis and the reader to hope for redemption. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763629175
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
02/14/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
739,474
Product dimensions:
4.83(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.53(d)
Lexile:
1050L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

When I opened my eyes Boobie wasn't in the driver's seat no more. He wasn't next to me and he wasn't in the back seat neither, and when I looked up and through the windshield I could see him walking backwards through the dead trees.

I looked in the back seat again cuz I couldn't hear the baby but the TV box was still there and the baby was in it and his arms was swimming out and you could see the windshield wipers slashing through his little blue eyes and I gave him my frostbite hand and he took it and put it in his mouth and I tried singing that "Hushabye Mountain" song to him but I couldn't get the words right cuz my teeth was chattering.

Then I looked out through the windshield again and Boobie kept walking backwards, smaller and smaller, and the snow was thick and white and sideways but you could still see how his hair was lifting off his shoulders. He raised his hand up like he was trying to say goodbye and even though he was far away now I put my good hand up and tried to touch him through the glass.

And I called out to him, too. I used the voice in my throat and the voice in my heart and the voice in my guts and the psychic voice in my mind, but Boobie couldn't hear me.

And I called out again and again till his hand fell and he started to fade, floating back and back, disappearing through the snowing trees.

_______

33 SNOWFISH by Adam Rapp. Copyright (c) 2006 by Adam Rapp. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Meet the Author

Adam Rapp is the acclaimed author of several novels for young adults, as well as an accomplished playwright whose plays have been produced by the New York Theatre Workshop, The Bush Theatre in London, and the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Of 33 SNOWFISH, he says, "When we have nowhere to go, who do we turn to? Why are we sometimes drawn to those who are deeply troubled? How far do we have to run before we find new possibilities? These were some of the questions that kept haunting me while I was working on this book."

Timothy Basil Ering’s drawings in 33 SNOWFISH represent the notebook sketches of the troubled character Boobie, and he also created the book’s cover image. Tim Ering says, "I always think of illustration almost as a form of acting. When you receive a manuscript, you have to get into character and imagine being that character and what he or she is thinking. In this case, I also had to imagine how this character would draw, and how his drawing might change or shrink on the page according to his changing state of mind."

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33 Snowfish 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Author and playwright Adam Rapp has created a masterful tale of woe in 33 SNOWFISH. With all of the trappings of "high literature" (there are stream-of-consciousness passages and multiple narrators), the author transcends the Problem Novel genre in this homage to Faulkner's AS I LAY DYING.

Like many of Faulkner's novels, 33 SNOWFISH depicts society's lowest, common denominator while somehow managing to make these characters three-dimensional and fairly sympathetic. They are at once repulsive and pitiful; the reader is drawn into their lives much like commuters passing by a car wreck. One cannot help but look or want to lend a hand.

This is the story of Custis, Curl, and Boobie, two teen runaways and one pre-teen. Each has a myriad of issues and a litany of anti-social behaviors that include pyromania, murder, prostitution, robbery, kidnapping, and weapons possession. We are dragged along on their ill-fated journey, where we learn about their past while watching them in the disastrous present. That the author finds a way to redeem one of the characters by the end of the story is a remarkable and credible feat.

Many reviewers issue a disclaimer about 33 SNOWFISH due to the lives of kids on the street being so graphically and dispassionately outlined. There are many adult themes and some profanity. This book is not for the squeamish. But neither is it a trite, formulaic, sensationalistic bombshell; every word, every paragraph, and every page is essential to the journey of these characters, even though only one meets an end that is appealing.

Rapp is to be commended for not "dumbing down" a story of the street for a wider readership. Many other young adult novels have a didactic message that is cumbersome and cliché, sounding a warning as loud as a tuba, leaving nothing for the reader to reflect upon. But 33 SNOWFISH is that rare book that is art for the sake of art, that makes the reader think for the message, that makes its audience reach for the gift of understanding, and the novel does it without wasting any words or pages.

Faulkner's fans and his detractors will appreciate this novel, as will young adult readers. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Buy it. Buy copies to donate to friends, I say "donate" because once it's borrowed it's never returned. The book is six bucks, take two home and feel like you've payed what it's worth. Drop one off at a highschool, it doesn't matter, but pass it on. Pull the book out around buddies and like-wise art farts and create a five minute storytelling session. Read aloud a few favorite passages and give the book to someone. Buy a copy at christmas time, don't wrap it, and give it to a reflective old person or a socially awkward teen or a semi-neurotic young adult. The book can be gifted to a poetry nerd, an introspective or an extrospective, it can be given to any person who is not described as ordinary. Be sure to read it too.
Sierra Phillips More than 1 year ago
Loved Adam Rapp's book Under the Wolf,Under the Dog so i figured id love this book too. I love the voices he has created in this book and the characters were great. Deffinately a great book for a quick read that will at first make you want to cry and then leave you with that warm amd fuzzy feeling inside.read it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Author and playwright Adam Rapp has created a masterful tale of woe in 33 SNOWFISH. With all of the trappings of ¿high literature¿ (there are stream-of-consciousness passages and multiple narrators), the author transcends the Problem Novel genre in this homage to Faulkner's AS I LAY DYING. Like many of Faulkner's novels, 33 SNOWFISH depicts society's lowest, common denominator while somehow managing to make these characters three-dimensional and fairly sympathetic. They are at once repulsive and pitiful the reader is drawn into their lives much like commuters passing by a car wreck. One cannot help but look or want to lend a hand. This is the story of Custis, Curl, and Boobie, two teen runaways and one pre-teen. Each has a myriad of issues and a litany of anti-social behaviors that include pyromania, murder, prostitution, robbery, kidnapping, and weapons possession. We are dragged along on their ill-fated journey, where we learn about their past while watching them in the disastrous present. That the author finds a way to redeem one of the characters by the end of the story is a remarkable and credible feat. Many reviewers issue a disclaimer about 33 SNOWFISH due to the lives of kids on the street being so graphically and dispassionately outlined. There are many adult themes and some profanity. This book is not for the squeamish. But neither is it a trite, formulaic, sensationalistic bombshell every word, every paragraph, and every page is essential to the journey of these characters, even though only one meets an end that is appealing. Rapp is to be commended for not ¿dumbing down¿ a story of the street for a wider readership. Many other young adult novels have a didactic message that is cumbersome and cliché, sounding a warning as loud as a tuba, leaving nothing for the reader to reflect upon. But 33 SNOWFISH is that rare book that is art for the sake of art, that makes the reader think for the message, that makes its audience reach for the gift of understanding, and the novel does it without wasting any words or pages. Faulkner's fans and his detractors will appreciate this novel, as will young adult readers. Highly recommended. Gold award. **Reviewed by: Mark Frye, author and reviewer
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was a wonderful book.I took this book out of the library and i am definitly going to buy it this book was truly amazing
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books i've ever read. There's not much more to say, I read it in one night!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book to bits and pieces... 'poignant' is a good word here. You can connect with the characters so easily because of the depths of how they put you into their world. Even Boobie gives cryptic but truthful messages within his sketches. Phenomenal book... I recommend to everyone