In the heat of August, Jake Terri Savage (“JT”), his little sister Danielle, and his bone-headed best friend, Nokey (nicknamed after “gnocchi”), try to steal JT’s father’s beloved 1965 Shelby Cobra. Their reasons are noble; the consequences,devastating.
JT’s abusive dad’s idea of a twelfth birthday gift is getting his son involved in a barroom brawl. Nokey’s dad thinks he has potatoes for brains. Both sons live out their fathers’ stunted visions in a way that brings down a terrible judgment on them all—leaving JT hauling rocks for punishment while he staves off panic attacks and nightmares about his sister and her terrible half-known secret.
A Dominican teenage girl with little hope for her own future gives JT a second chance to save someone, including himself. Throughout, David Prete’s vivid sense of atmosphere, tight plotting, and crackling dialogue give the dysfunctional family story a new lease on life.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This novel is narrated by Jake Savage, who, when we meet him, is working as a labourer in New York and living alone in a cheap apartment. Clearly something bad has happened to him in his recent past ¿ he has flashbacks, he superimposes his sister¿s face on strangers, and before he got the apartment he was sleeping rough in a park.Gradually, through a mixture of present day event/conversation and flashback his story starts to unfold. Clearly it is going to be a shocking one; we get glimpses, which lead only to questions ¿ Why can¿t he sleep at night? What was going on between his sister and his father? Why does he have to attend family counselling sessions with his mum and dad?In the present, Jake strikes up friendships, with his co-worker Brian, and with Stephanie, a teenage girl living in another apartment in the same block. These friendships help to keep Jake sane and make him feel less alone in the world. The denouement when it finally comes (in the last 25 pages) is shocking and upsetting ¿ this is a dark book of family tensions overflowing into disaster.Good points about the book:¿It¿s exceedingly well written; the descriptive writing is very good and the prose is spare (every sentence seems to count, there¿s no padding);¿The use of urban patois fixes it firmly in a time and place (urban youth)¿It¿s very descriptive of New York, which I enjoyed (I read it with Google maps open beside me on the computer and tracked his journeys up and down Manhattan ¿ OK, I¿m a geek!)¿The plot is well realised and credible.So, why only 3 stars? Well, maybe I¿m being a bit harsh, but I felt it didn¿t have a lot to say. What is does say is dark and shocking, but it takes a long while to say it. For me, there just wasn¿t enough; I feel it needed something more ¿ maybe another story running alongside to provide stark contrast with Jake¿s story.Also, although I enjoyed the quality of the writing, I didn¿t get very engaged with the characters ¿ actually I didn¿t care very much what had happened to Jake, or where he was going with Stephanie. Though I can¿t quite put my finger on why I felt that way.And lastly, I found the way the narrative jumps around in time confusing; the chapters get shorter and shorter as the book moves towards a climax (which does have the effect of ramping up tension), but I sometimes found it difficult to tell whether we were in ¿now¿, or earlier this year, or last summer, or earlier in his childhood, which made it feel rather disjointed.In summary, I found this book very interesting, and I would look out for more by the same writer.