Merit Badges

Overview

Fiction. Winner of the AWP Prize for the Novel, judged by Jim Shepard. Follow four friends as they move from The Brady Bunch to Seinfeld, from junior high to middle management. There is Quint, whose rebellion frays into self-destruction; Slow, who struggles to become the world's first teenage father figure; Chimes, who fears losing his friends while picking up a 7-10 split; and Barb who escapes the conformity of Minnisapa only to find herself returning by dark of night. You will feel as if you've always lived in ...

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Overview

Fiction. Winner of the AWP Prize for the Novel, judged by Jim Shepard. Follow four friends as they move from The Brady Bunch to Seinfeld, from junior high to middle management. There is Quint, whose rebellion frays into self-destruction; Slow, who struggles to become the world's first teenage father figure; Chimes, who fears losing his friends while picking up a 7-10 split; and Barb who escapes the conformity of Minnisapa only to find herself returning by dark of night. You will feel as if you've always lived in Minnisapa, Minnesota. And you will never underestimate nice kids from the Midwest again. "MERIT BADGES is hilarious, painful, lovely, nostalgic, generous and true. Kevin Fenton creates an unforgettable group of characters, in whose lives and thoughts and actions readers will often recognize themselves. This is a very funny, very moving, and wonderful book"—Julie Schumacher.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An impressive vitality, droll wit, and affecting nostalgia lift Fenton's first novel about four high school pals growing up together during the 1970s in the fictional town of Minnisapa, Minn.: Chimes Sanborn, ex–Boy Scout and ace bowler; Quint King, a "stoner" who tries to prove he can "letter in recreational drug use"; Barb Carimona, a sensitive music lover, who discovers their town was named after "a blot of ink" by an Indian "making a joke at the stupid white guy's expense"; and Slow Slocum, a jock from a dysfunctional family. Fenton tracks their lives up through their first postgraduate decade, which doesn't always turn out as they planned or hoped. Perhaps the gloomiest outcome is Barb's aborted stays in New York City and Chicago before her return home to work as a convenience store cashier. In a sweet romantic interlude, Slow proposes to his girlfriend while sitting atop a Ferris wheel. Eminently readable prose makes it easy to forgive an inconclusive ending. (Jan.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781936970032
  • Publisher: New Issues Poetry & Prose, Western Michigan University
  • Publication date: 4/18/2011
  • Pages: 233
  • Sales rank: 1,060,167
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Fenton lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and works as an advertising writer and creative director. His fiction has appeared in the Northwest Review, the Laurel Review, and the Emprise Review. His writing on graphic design has been anthologized in Looking Closer 2: Critical Writing On Graphic Design and Émigré No. 70: The Look Back Issue. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 3, 2011

    Funny, compelling, stunning...just wow.

    It's sort of amazing when a book evokes something so precisely that it's outright funny, yet stunningly poignant all at once, but that was my experience with Merit Badges, and the way it portrayed a group of friends growing up in small town Minnesota. I ate this book up! It totally brought me back to a time when high schools had "plastic pod chairs in the concourse" and stoner kids got into fights set to the Allman Brothers.

    The hills in this town "kneel like buffaloes" and the houses you walk past have "the kind of oil paintings you buy in drugstores and the glow of TVs." I found myself reading lines aloud to my husband every other page. At one point, Quint says: "The weather was like me, only more so. The weather needed some counseling. The weather had to think about the consequences of its actions."

    The characters feel vivid and achingly true, sometimes in a touching and highly entertaining way (like the one guy who models himself on the dad from Leave it to Beaver). This tale of their aspirations, their loves, their disappointments is hugely compelling. The times I had to put this book down, I couldn't wait to get back to it.

    I think people who enjoy the prose of Nick Hornby and Kazuo Ishiguro would really enjoy this book.

    Actually, it's weird that I would read a book over - it's partly because at some points I got way too caught up in the drama and I know I missed the many fun gems. But more, I think, it's because Merit Badges left me with such a wonderful, thoughtful feeling about life. Like the best books do.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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