One word: bravo. Like a whirling roulette wheel, Beautiful Children presents a mesmerizing blur. Imagine each vivid slash of color as a character, with his or her own impetus toward loss and stubborn striving. Bock slows or stops the wheel at will, bringing each slot into saturated individual focus…[his] evocation of experiences most people will (mercifully) never share, and his depiction of each man, woman and child's personal mythology is ravishing and raw…Bock's vision and voice create a fictional landscape as corruptly compelling as Vegas, and as beautiful as the illusions its characters cling to for survival…
The New York Times
Beautiful Children is…about the aftermath of warnot merely Iraq, although that is mentionedbut more important "the war of all against all," which seems to have been raging for at least a couple of generations. That war is, as Bock demonstrates, destroying our kids with the demonic ingenuity of modern drugs and technology, not to mention the demise of the family itself. In the no-man's-land of Bock's Vegas there remain only the survival strategies of the hopelessly inept young. I cannot think of another novelist who has dared to attack this most pressing and complex issue so ferociously.
The Washington Post
Bock's debut novel is among the most acclaimed of 2008, which makes it surprising that its audio version would appear in a truncated, abridged version. Even in the shortened version, Mark Deakins's reading is mostly solid. Deakins's subdued baritone is deeply soothing, which makes the book perhaps more relaxing than Bock might have intended his jarring portrait of Las Vegas's shattered youth to be. The only real miscalculation in Deakins's reading is when he attempts the voices of Bock's hip-hop-wannabe teenagers. The effect is more ludicrous than accurate and makes for a harsh interruption to his otherwise fluid reading. On second thought, perhaps that does fulfill the book's intent to occasionally shock. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 27, 2007). (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
With blunt and sometimes uncomfortable descriptions of abuse and squalor, this debut novel addresses the harrowing issue of this country's runaway children. Set in the sex-charged city of Las Vegas, the spellbinding plot centers on missing 12-year-old Newell Ewing, covering both the hours surrounding his disappearance and the situation's devastating effect on his parents. Complex characters playing a role in Newell's disappearance occasion a stark look into the grimy world of hustling, strip clubs, and a porn industry drawing transient and desperate teens. Among these characters are the spoiled Newell; Kenny, whose low self-esteem makes him hook up with a younger boy; Cheri, a high-class stripper involved with a skuzzy predator named Ponyboy; a pitiful comic-book artist named Bing; and a host of homeless teenagers like Danger-Prone Daphney-pregnant, doped up, and from an upper-middle-class family. This powerful indictment of a culture of "people hurting people for no reason" promises to shake up the moral conscience of every reader. A comprehensive drama; highly recommended for every collection. [See Prepub Alert, LJ9/1/07.]
David A. Berona
This debut shows plenty of ambition and promise but could use a streamlining of subplots. The author casts his native Las Vegas as a microcosm not only for America, but for the human condition as well. At the hub is the Ewing family, Lincoln and Lorraine and their 12-year-old son, Newell, who all appear conventionally (if a little complacently) happy until Newell falls through the city's cracks. Though the central chronology documents the night of Newell's disappearance, flashbacks (and flashes forward) show that the boy wasn't that happy after all. If he were, he'd be the only one in this novel who is. There are many spokes to the plot, most of them tangential. There is the stripper and her boyfriend (verging on pimp), who urges her to get breast implants and coaxes her toward a porn shoot. There is a geeky graphic artist, with the improbable jazz-homage name of Bing Beiderbixxe, who has a scheme that involves both 3-D tattoos and the stripper. There is the dead-end high-school kid who receives encouragement from Bing and who befriends Newell. There is a hallucinatory episode among a homeless pack including a nameless girl with a shaved head, a pregnant girl, a dog and a vampirish hustler. Many of these people converge on a late-night punk-rock bacchanal in the desert, which serves as a sort of climax without bringing the plot full circle. And there are Lincoln and Lorraine, who come to suspect that their son was the only thing holding their marriage together. The tone varies from titillating close-ups of the adult-entertainment industry to background information on runaways that sounds like a public-service announcement. (It's 11 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?) On somelevel, everyone is a predator, and any beauty that these children once had has been either taken from them or bartered. Remember Ordinary People? This could have been titled Pathetic People. Agent: Jim Rutman/Sterling Lord Literistic Inc.
“One word: bravo.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Truly powerful . . . Beautiful Children dazzles its readers on almost every page. . . . [Charles Bock] knows how to tug at your heart, and he knows how to make you laugh out loud, often on the same page, sometimes in the same sentence.”—Newsweek
“Exceptional . . . This novel deserves to be read more than once because of the extraordinary importance of its subject matter.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Magnificent . . . a hugely ambitious novel that succeeds . . . Beautiful Children manages to feel completely of its moment while remaining unaffected by literary trends. . . . Charles Bock is the real thing.”—The New Republic
“A wildly satisfying and disturbing literary journey, led by an author of blazing talent.”—The Dallas Morning News
“Wholly original—dirty, fast, and hypnotic. The sentences flicker and skip and whirl.”—Esquire
“An anxious, angry, honest first novel filled with compassion and clarity . . . The language has a rhythm wholly its own—at moments it is stunning, near genius.”—A. M. Homes
“From start to finish, Bock never stops tantalizing the reader.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Rich and compelling . . . captures the hallucinogenic setting like a fever dream.”—Los Angeles Times