Huge: A Novel

Huge: A Novel

by James Fuerst

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307452511
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 07/07/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 944,366
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

JAMES W. FUERST spent his teenage years in New Jersey and now lives in Brooklyn.  He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University and holds an M.F.A from The New School. Huge is his first novel.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Read an Excerpt


It was one of those lurid August days, all haze and steam, the sun hidden and stewing like a shameful lust. I dropped the kickstand, locked the Cruiser to the no parking sign, and wiped the glaze of sweat off my face and neck. Thrash was at my side (I'd doubled him along), and we shared a quiet look before heading in.

As we stepped through the glass front doors, the chill from the air-conditioning slapped me like I'd mouthed off. But that was good. It gave me a jolt, woke me up. There wasn't anyone at the front desk, so we hung a left and tiptoed down the pale gray corridor, sticking close to the wall. The Oakshade Retirement Home bragged about cleanliness in its brochures, and to back it up they made sure every inch of the place always reeked of rubbing alcohol and used rubber gloves. Some of the janitors said that if you stayed there long enough, the smell alone could make you sick, or even kill you. Not me, though. I loved that goddamn smell.

We slipped past a few cocked and shadowed heads lolling on the backs of Naugahyde furniture in the TV room, and then double-timed it through a quick Z-shaped turn on the left. I knew the way. I'd been there plenty of times before, enough to know to keep the sneaker-squeaks to a minimum, to pass open doorways without looking in, and never to stop to talk to anyone for anything, even if someone cried out for help. If I did, I'd be spotted, ambushed, corralled, a mob of them materializing out of nowhere, shuffling through the half-lit halls like zombies, penning me in. And then I'd be stuck getting pawed and petted and pinched for who knew how long.

Sure, it was risky, and even riskier with two of us instead of just one. But I wasn't worried that Thrash would give us away. He was the quiet type, the heavy; the brawn in the background who never seemed to move or make a sound except when damage needed to be done. He wasn't very big or much to look at, but he was expert at laying low, blending in, and holing up somewhere just out of sight until the time was right to strike. Not that I'd ever turn him loose on the bags of bones clattering around this joint--that just wouldn't be fair. No, right now Thrash knew he was just along for the ride, and I'd do all the talking.

We turned at the last room on the left. I rapped once on the door, opened it, and was greeted by two expectant eyes staring back at me. Her wheelchair was on the far side of the bed, in the corner by the window, and she was in it. Her wig was putty-colored and mangled and tilted too far to the right, and she'd forgotten to pencil an eyebrow over her left eye. The whole effect was like her head was sliding off to one side. She looked smaller than usual, crooked. But at least she had her teeth in.

"Genie!" she cried, smiling, opening her arms to me.

"It's Eug," I corrected her, pronouncing it "Huge," because that's what I called myself.

"Huge? What's wrong with Genie? It's a perfectly good--"

"Can it, sweetheart, you got no eyebrow," I leveled.

"Oh." She frowned. "See my purse?" She pointed. "When you hand it to me, you can give your Toots some sugar."

The woman had a one-track mind; she always wanted her sugar. I grabbed the red leather bag hanging on the closet doorknob, dropped it in her lap, and laid one on her. Her skin was cool, dry, and loose against my lips. Thrash was slouched over in the wooden chair on the opposite side of the bed, near the door, and out of the corner of my eye I caught that smirk of his. But I didn't mind giving her what she wanted, and I didn't give a damn who saw.

"There, that's better," she cooed, her knobby hands trembling as she held up a compact and drew a thin arch over her left brow. She seemed so pleased with the result that I didn't have the heart to tell her the pink over her left eye didn't match the purple over her right. "So..." She turned her eyes back to me. "How are you getting along?"

"I'm getting along as best I can," I said, and swallowed hard at the truth of it.

"I mean, how's your summer?"

"It's had its moments." I shrugged. "But it'll all be over soon."

"That's life, Genie," she sighed, "what'd you expect?"

"It's Huge."

"What? Okay, all right, have it your way . . . Huge," she said as she placed her bag on the floor beside her. She went quiet, peering over her shoulder toward the window and then down at her white orthopedic sneakers. Not a good start: she was either drifting or upset. I took a seat on the bed and made myself comfortable, because I knew it could take a while for her to snap to.

"Do you want a sweet?" she asked.

Shit, that was quicker than usual, and I should've yelled no or made a break for the door, but it was too late. She'd already reached into the plastic dish on the nightstand and pulled out this shiny green nugget.

"Here, it's lime." She wrapped my fingers around it and motioned for me to eat.

I froze. My lips tightened and my stomach whined, but she was nodding and smiling and there was nothing I could do. I took a deep breath and popped it into my mouth. It tasted like sweat from the crack of a dockworker's ass. Not that I'd ever sampled any, but I felt like spewing and then gargling with bleach all the same. She was watching me, though, so I had no choice but to choke the damn thing back.

"Good, isn't it?"

I didn't say anything, but that didn't keep Thrash from smiling.

"Now, don't tell your mother that I gave you candy." She winked. "It'll be our secret."

It was sad, really. Because if she thought this was candy, then she was much further gone than everybody said.

She talked about my mother and her new boyfriend, Craig, how it was good for mom to have a man around the house and good for my sister, Neecey, and me, too, but how it meant that mom had less time for her. I didn't have any problem with Craig, because he wasn't around as often as she thought and he never gave me trouble when he was. The dig about mom not stopping by as often wasn't true, but I didn't argue the point.

Then it was the usual stuff about the activities they'd done last week (a day trip to the horse races at Monmouth Park) and what was scheduled for next week (a day trip down to the casinos in Atlantic City). And she said, "With all the gambling they expose us to, you'd think we're swimming in cash. But Margaret in sixteen can barely afford her medication, and she's not the only one. Now, tell me, where's the sense in that?"

I told her there wasn't any, but that they had to do something.

"You may be right, Genie," she sighed, flattening her dress across her lap so the flowers weren't wrinkled, "but sometimes it seems that old age brings nothing but one petty insult after another."

Great. Two gripes and then right into the old-age shtick. That could only mean one thing: she was upset about something, and I'd have to hear it.

"To watch the sun go down with a little bit of dignity," she went on, "is that too much to ask?"

I knew better than to answer that.

"Speaking of which," she said, her cloudy brown eyes flaring with annoyance, "did you see what they did to our sign?"

"No," I said, because I hadn't. I'd taken the back way instead of the front. "What'd they do?"

"They vandalized it," she hissed, glaring and shaking her head.

Maybe that's why she was so cranky. "Vandalized it? Who? How?"

"There, over there." She pointed with her left hand as she turned her wheelchair to face the window with her right. "See for yourself."

I followed the direction of her finger, over the air vents along the windowsill, through the parted green curtains, across the parking lot pavement shivering from the heat, to an island of withered grass near the four-lane highway that ran along the front of the home. In the center of the island were a dirt mound, a few mangy weeds, a high, thick hedge that bordered the roadway, and a tall wooden sign, which ordinarily read oakshade retirement home. But the "irement" was covered over in black paint, and the sign now read oakshade retarted home.

Retarted?! Jesus Christ, what kind of bullshit was that?

I didn't know what made me angrier: the fact that it was a cheap shot at harmless seniors and their families; that it was the kind of put-down only a moron would use; or that it'd been slapped up there by the kind of moron who didn't even have enough sense to check his goddamn spelling. That must've been what was bothering her, and now I was bothered, too. Suddenly I was livid. The tips of my fingers quivered and curled, and I started counting backward from ten in my head--ten . . . nine . . . eight--but I wasn't quite sure what would happen when I reached one: would I cool down or blast off? I looked over at Thrash. He had that expression on his face again.

"It's disgraceful. There's no respect for anything anymore," she sighed, wearily this time. "And because it's kids, nobody will lift a finger to do a thing about it. That's why I've always told you to mind your manners, keep your nose clean, and be careful, because kids today-- Are you listening to me, Genie?"

Six . . . five . . . four. Yeah, I was listening. I'd heard the "be careful" speech a million times, and was as receptive now as all the others. Three . . . two . . . one. "Fucking monkey fuckers!"

"Genie!" she snapped. "You'd better wise up, young man. They won't tolerate that filth of yours in junior high."

I didn't give a shit if they would or wouldn't. Whether I skipped another grade or was left back again, there was one thing I could count on as far as other people were concerned, although I couldn't remember what it was at the moment because I was too busy trying to compose myself--you know, act like a gentleman, watch my mouth in front of a lady and shit. "Sorry," I grumbled, but didn't mean it.

She looked at me sternly, the bluish blobs on her brown eyes filling with light. I thought she was gonna let me have it and got ready to swallow the next load of crap she dished my way. But she only flashed me this scheming, sideways smile, leaned forward, and reached for her purse.

Suddenly I didn't feel angry anymore; I felt excited. This was how it usually happened for Marlowe--Philip Marlowe, the most badass private detective the world had ever seen. He'd go to the mansion of some wheezy old geezer propped up in a wheelchair, or the wood-walled study of some crabby battle-ax, everything always smelling of eucalyptus and sandalwood, and after a couple of stiff drinks and a few minutes of chitchat, he'd walk out with a new client, a case to solve, and a substantial advance in his pocket.

But I wasn't getting my hopes up just yet. Thing was, I'd only been on one case before, and I'd taken that up on my own initiative. I'd never had a real client, never been paid for my efforts, so as far as my status as a detective went, I guess you could say I was still an amateur.

Maybe that was about to change. After all, she's the one who'd dumped a wheelbarrow of yellowed and musty detective books on me in fifth grade--all the Marlowes and Sherlock Holmeses and a Sam Spade one, too--and I'd been through each of them dozens of times since then. They'd been my grandfather's books, but I hadn't started reading them because I'd gotten all sissy and sentimental about the relics of a man I'd never met, or because I'd been duped into thinking that reading was fundamental like the commercial said. Nah, I'd read them for a simpler reason: because she'd stood over me and forced me to. She'd had to watch me at the time and said that being out of school (which I was then) was no excuse for letting my brain go to rot. She'd sit me down at the kitchen table, pour me a glass of milk, stack a few cookies on a napkin, stand behind me or pull up a chair, and read along, line by line, page after page, annoying the crap out of me, cracking the whip and mushing me onward like a Husky into an avalanche, until she trusted that I'd read them on my own. That didn't take long, because it turned out the books were good, really good, and they taught you everything you needed to know about crime, detection, the world, and more--the exact opposite of what I would've been learning in school. Besides, back then I didn't have a damn thing else to do, so why not save myself more headaches and make the old lady happy? The Encyclopedia Brown, Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew she gave me all bit the big one, but I didn't see the point of throwing that in her face when we talked about what I'd read, which we always did, because more than anything else, that's what she said books were for.

Now she laid her bag on her lap, stooped over it, thrust both hands inside, and began clawing and sifting its contents like a miner panning for gold. I scooted my butt to the edge of the bed, eager for her to cut to the chase. That smile of hers had tipped me off. I'd seen it more times than you could count on an abacus, and it always meant the same thing: she had an idea, something sneaky or secret; she was up to something, and any second I'd be up to something right along with her. That's how she'd always been with me. She knew I got into trouble more often than most people got out of bed, and she usually took a minute or two to remind me all about it when we were alone. But that never stopped her from egging me on, coming up with pranks or stunts I could pull just for the hell of it, convincing me to do them. She told me boys had to have some mischief in them or they might as well wear dresses and party socks and play with dolls, and just because I'd taken a running leap way over the line in fifth grade, it didn't mean I'd lost the right to mix it up and have some fun.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

What People are Saying About This

Sean Stewart

"Funny, rude, and tender all at once, HUGE is terrific. Hard-boiled and half-baked, Eugene is a bristling undersized hero for all of us who have felt the furious, desperate need to make life matter, or get splattered trying. My thanks to James Fuerst for the time and care and heart, the playful language and the emotional openness and the honest difficult careful labor, that have made HUGE so fun and fast-paced and a joy to read."--(Sean Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of CATHY'S BOOK and PERFECT CIRCLE)

Ron McLarty

"This is NOT a coming of age novel. This is a rocket ship of adolescence. I loved little Huge. He's 12, small and wiry, speaks like a 1940's private eye and calls his Grandmother 'sweetheart.' A word of advice: don't steal his homemade bike."--(Ron McLarty, New York Times bestselling author of MEMORY OF RUNNING)

Keith Donohue

"An evocative black comedy of manners... Imagine Philip Marlowe as a troubled tweener in suburban New Jersey, add a touch of Thoreau's Walden, and you have Huge Smalls, the protagonist of Fuerst's debut, who effortlessly lures you into his hardboiled imagination and completely dysfunctional life."--(Keith Donohue, New York Times bestselling author of THE STOLEN CHILD)

Alicia Erian

"Huge" Smalls is my new favorite fictional character: hilariously potty-mouthed, but also sweetly innocent (well, mostly, anyway), he is an utterly original creation. Join him on his cruiser as he tries to solve crimes and misdemeanors in his hometown and somehow ends up with the girl of his dreams - I can guarantee you'll enjoy the ride!"--(Alicia Erian, author of the New York Times Notable Book TOWELHEAD)


1) Huge combines so many different genres. It's part noir mystery, part coming-of-age story, part comedy. Was it part of your plan to rethink the possibilities for these genres or did the story just evolve?
I'd love to say that I had a plan and knew what I was doing all along, but it's more the case that Huge just evolved. I'd originally begun it as a short story, but after a couple of months of writing, I realized there was enough material for a longer work. At that point, I had a lot of choices to make-which genres I'd be using, how, why-because I especially enjoy stories and novels that keep me guessing or off-balance as a reader and I wanted to try to capture something of that kind of reading experience in Huge. So, I thought playing around with the work's genres might be a fun way to keep readers moving through the narrative without knowing exactly where they're going and I hope they think so, too.

2) Your protagonist, Eugene "Huge" Smalls, is a major devotee of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and it's clear from reading the book that you're very conversant with the standards of the noir genre yourself. Were you, like Huge, a big fan of mysteries and film noir growing up?
It's a little embarrassing to admit that I wasn't much of a reader growing up, but I've always enjoyed a good mystery, thriller, or suspense story and I'm definitely a fan. In fact, I used to teach a college writing seminar on detective fiction, which allowed me to delve into a wide variety of classic detective novels and stories, hardboiled and noir, metaphysical and anti-detective works, as well as literary theory and criticism about the different genres andsub-genres, etc. It also gave me the invaluable opportunity to learn something about how others experience and respond to such works by discussing them with students.

In terms of noir, the ones I've gone back to time and again are Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, Chester Himes, David Lynch's films, and more recently Georges Simenon's romans durs (among others), and although I read it very late in the game regarding where I was with Huge, I both thoroughly enjoyed and took encouragement from Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn. More than any one genre or type, however, I think I've been most influenced by the diversity of possibilities within detective and crime fiction writ large and I've tried to explore some of those possibilities in my own work.

3) A major theme of this book is the power of fiction-specifically, the escape it can offer to someone who is lonely and desperate and in need of some better, alternate reality. Did you ever feel the need to retreat into a fantasy world the way Huge does? Do you think many people-even adults-take refuge in comforting fictions that allow them to see the world in simpler, more easily understandable terms?
Reading and writing fictions provide both great pleasure and a kind of internal sustenance for me, so I think my own experience has taught me how appealing and necessary taking refuge within them can be. But I'm not sure "reality" is the kind of thing we can use fantasies or fictions to escape; it's probably more the case that they offer us respite from the stresses and strains of our daily lives, which is something we all need, whether we're especially lonely, isolated, desperate, troubled, or not. At their best, fictions can challenge us to reconsider how we understand ourselves, other people, our place in the world, and perhaps offer us some impetus to alter the ways we engage or approach our own realities, whatever they may be.

What I find most fascinating in all of this is that for fictions to be effective or useful to us, we have to find ways to integrate them with all the other narratives and stories and fictions that already constitute our understandings of who we are, what we do, where we're from, where we're going, and after a certain point all the mixing and matching and shifting can make it difficult for us to tell which fictions are which. I tried to convey some small inkling of these latter complications in Huge because I do find them interesting, and because some of the problems that may arise have the potential to be a great source of comedy.

4) Does Huge's journey out of his fantasy world mirror a (painful) process we all go through at some point in our lives?
So, as for whether Huge's journey as a character mirrors experiences that we all go through, I would have to say yes. And also no. And then maybe, sort of, it depends. But readers are pretty smart, and if they're interested in this sort of question, they'll be able to figure it out for themselves much better than I can.

5) As the smallest, meanest, angriest kid in his school, Huge has a lot of issues to sort out. How much of Huge's experience is based on your own adolescence?

There are a handful of similarities: I grew up in a similar kind of town at about the same time, rode my bike everywhere when I was young, skipped a grade, played Pop Warner football, have a mother and a sister, and loved my grandmother (who died in 1996 and was a larger-than-life character in her own right) very, very much. But, with the exception of the last on the list, my own experiences at that age were very different from those of Huge, basically night-and-day different, actually. That could be what drew me to him as a character in the first place, though, the opportunity to try to imagine what partial aspects of my own life might have been like if a couple of crucial things had turned out some other way. I'm not exactly sure about that, but there's no doubt Huge is a lot tougher than I was, not even close.

6) Did writing Huge stir up any emotions from your adolescence? Was it a cathartic experience or perhaps the opposite?
It was more the opposite for me, in that I had to stir up my own emotions to try to recall the urgency and excess of being that age, the feeling that everything is so important, so earth-shatteringly significant, so wrong, so unfair, so unjust, and that all these terrible things are happening only to me-you know, adolescence. Personally, though, it was very helpful at the time, because I was angry and frustrated at the state of the world on a more or less constant basis while writing the first draft in 2004 and 2005, and working on Huge gave me something productive to do with those emotions and somewhere to put them. Probably more therapeutic than cathartic, I'd say.

7) Huge paints such a vivid portrait of the high school and junior high dynamic and life in a small New Jersey town in the 80s. How did you tap into this world?
By undertaking the most rigorous and exhaustive course of investigative research into all things New Jersey in the 1980s that I could devise for myself, which included listening to old Bruce Springsteen songs, taking regular catnaps to refresh my memories and thoughts, and perusing with rapt fascination the kind of high quality information and analysis that can only be encountered on the internets. It's hard work, sure, but somebody has to do it.

8) Thrash is quite the supporting character-part therapeutic buddy, part scheming co-pilot-never mind that he's a stuffed frog. How did this character pop into the novel in the first place, and how did you decide to make him so evil?
I'm probably not supposed to admit this, but something about the absurdity of a cuddly plush toy concealing an almost toxic form of evil made me laugh from the very beginning, and still does. So, that's why he's in there, and if there's more to it than that, I certainly can't say what it is.

9) The mystery of the villain's identity takes quite a few twists and turns in the novel. Did you know who the culprit would be from the beginning?
Yes, but making sure the culprit turned out to be who I thought it would be was the tricky part-culprits are notoriously shifty and uncooperative.

10) Huge is partly defined by his rage, but he also manages to be a completely charming, sympathetic character. How did you achieve this balance? Were you ever worried about your ability to make readers identify with such an angry protagonist?
At times, I was a little concerned about how angry Huge was as a character, especially after I had written about forty or fifty pages of wrong turns somewhere in the middle and was trying to figure out what I was doing, but I wasn't worried that readers would be turned off or would refuse to identify with him for that reason alone. I was much more concerned that readers wouldn't find his sense of humor, his way of expressing himself, or his attempts to be honest about his circumstances entertaining, compelling, or plausible enough to grant him the leeway that I think readers are wont to give characters they find to be funny or truthful or who express themselves in unusual ways. And I'm still worried about that to some extent because, above all else, I tried to write Huge as a novel that readers might have some fun with. We'll see how it goes.

11) Did you have a specific audience in mind when you wrote this? Do you think you would have liked reading this book when you were Huge's age, or is it more for adults?
I tried to write Huge for the broadest audience possible but I always saw that audience as being considerably older than he, four or five years older at the least and usually early-twenties onward, because of the language used throughout as well as the nature and theme of some of the topics and scenes. That said, and forgetting all about my earlier confession, I guess I could imagine myself reading Huge at his age in the same way kids back in my day were surreptitiously passing around, say, Judy Blume's Forever or Wifey-books that spoke in differing ways to the yearnings of adolescents but were considered by some to be on the far side of licit for them to read. So, I'd put Huge in a mixed category-primarily adults plus mature/older teens-but with everything even younger teenagers are exposed to these days, I'm in no position to say what they're ready to handle; that's for their parents to decide.

12) Novels featuring adolescent protagonists have been among the biggest hits of
recent years. Why do you think adult readers keep coming to these stories? Is
there something about adolescent rites of passage that continues to
fascinate us?

There are probably many reasons why adults keep coming to novels with adolescent protagonists, some of which may have to do with the intrinsic quality and richness of the novels themselves, the need for adults to recall or vicariously re-experience aspects of their childhood in order to prepare themselves for parenthood, or with broader cultural trends-it's hard to say. But I don't think there's much doubt that rites of passage-not only from our early teens, but also from all periods of life-continue to fascinate us as readers, because, as "rites," they suggest moments of overt or formative significance that other moments in our lives either may not possess or may not as forcefully and explicitly communicate to us. And the possibility of encountering something significant, for me at least, is one of the main reasons why readers of all ages open books in the first place. That, and because it's fun to go back and laugh at ourselves.

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Huge 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
little_prof on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Ok, before I get into the meat of this review: what have I done wrong? What, exactly, did I do to anger the cover design people at Random House? First they make Gone Away World neon pink, bright green, and fuzzy, and now... now.... Huge is a wonderful first novel. Its protagonist is a twelve year old boy who has read way too much Chandler, Hammett, and all the other world-weary detectives, and has convinced himself that he's a kindred spirit to them. So what does Random House do? They make a book cover that looks like it was decorated by an eight year old girl (or Sara)! It's sparkly! It looks like a trout! I just... I know there are things I don't understand in this world. Apparently, cover design is one of them. Anyway, on to Huge. It's tempting to simply write about how well Fuerst sells his conceit - it's not that Eugene Smalls (formerly - and currently - known affectionately as 'Gene', desperate to convince people to call him 'Huge', like the first three letters of his name, despite the fact that he's tiny) actually lives in a hard-boiled world. There are no untrustworthy dames, no skulking mooks, no long shadows covering rain-and-neon swept streets. He's living a normal, lower-middle class life, trying to keep up with his older sister and help out his single mom. It's just that his grandmother has been consistently feeding him a diet of hard-boiled detective novels, and transforming himself into a steely-eyed, hard-hearted flatfoot is the only way he knows to cope with his changing world, faced as he is with the daunting task of entering adolescence. The mystery elements in Huge are light, but factor large into Eugene's world. Someone has vandalized the sign of his grandmother's retirement home. They're spray-painted 'retarted' over the world 'retirement'. It's not just the vandalism that drives Eugene up the wall; it's the fact that they misspelled their own taunt. And so off he goes, onto his own case, regardless of whether his mother or sister want him to. He's not a popular boy, intelligent but reclusive, prone to rages he can't control, and he knows he's on his own. Besides, anything's better that facing the end of summer and the upcoming school year. And that's where Fuerst, to put it simply, wins. Eugene isn't an annoying kid. He's also not an adult shrunk to miniature size. He's a twelve year old, with a twelve year old's sense of time, a twelve year old's sense of his place in the world, a twelve year old's sense of purpose and drive and fear. Hyperbole or not, he belongs in the ranks with Mitchell's Jason Taylor, McCammon's Cory Mackenson, and, yes, Salinger's Holden Caulfield. The joy in reading Huge is in watching Eugene grow up between the pages, and slowly start to question whether viewing the world through noir-tinted glasses - and keeping himself locked off from the world beyond him - is really such a wise choice to make. -Drew
jnfalvey on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Readers will enjoy following the exploits of Eugene "Huge" Smalls as he tries to find himself even as he finds the perpetrator of the crime at the Oakshade Retirement Home. At times, Fuerst's insistence on sticking to a Dashiell-Hammettesque tone for Huge's narration gets in the way of his character; it takes 1/2 the book to get a sense of Huge as more than a play-acting caricature and more as a real kid with some serious anger issues and the courage to try and work through them. After that, the last half is a real pleasure as we get to see how he tries to do just that.
KevinJoseph on LibraryThing 8 months ago
James Fuerst brings a fresh approach to the coming-of-age novel, arming its twelve-year-old protagonist Eugene "Huge" Smalls with a distinctive voice that's shaped by the hard-boiled detective novels his grandmother funnels to him as well as the self-reliant streak he subconciously adopts after struggling through a loaned copy of Thoreau. Gifted with a high IQ and active imagination, but impeded by the absence of a father figure, his diminuative stature, and a growing sense of paranoia, Huge struggles to control violent impulses that have made him a social outcast. While some have criticized the story for for its plotlessness, I see that as a key ingredient of the novel. Like many intelligent and creative kids his age, Huge imagines a nefarious plot where none exists, and his gradual realization of the effects of his paranoia and distrust becomes central to his maturation. Despite these serious themes, this novel is also wickedly funny. Huge's cheesy, hardboiled metaphors are a great touch, as are his impressions of the "bad" kids in Darren's posse. And his terror-stricken romance with Staci captures perfectly the swirling emotions comprising a boy's first infatuation. Readers who grew up in the 1980s will also dig the pop culture references and lingo.
DowntownLibrarian on LibraryThing 8 months ago
If Harriet the Spy were male, had an anger management problem, and read a lot of Dashiell Hammett, she might be a little like Eugene (Huge) Smalls. More bildungsroman than detective novel, it is above all a funny and moving portrayal of adolescence. A very good read!
lindenstein on LibraryThing 8 months ago
As I began this book, it seemed to resemble the literary lovechild of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" and "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." But I was mistaken, and I was not disappointed by what the book delivered.The story is told with a serious dose of humor and irony, and the family dynamics are pretty believable. Huge seems to accept things in life towards the end of the book that he wouldn't have accepted at the book's beginning, which shows his growth and maturity; at the end of the day, this is a coming-of-coming-of-age story, because it ends right where the traditional coming-of-age story begins, when the boy begins his first real relationship with a girl.One of the the best qualities of this book was the way it blended the many different genres that are all present at the same time: mystery, teen angst, and honest characterization of a time/place that are clearly important for the person telling the story (both the protagonist and the writer) are all present at the same time, playing off each other and adding value to each of the characteristics.I would definitely recommend this book. While I wouldn't say it is one of the best books of the year, I really did enjoy it and was rooting for Huge by the end of the book.
amanderson on LibraryThing 8 months ago
3 1/2 stars for this. A coming-of-age story set in the 1980's about a 12-year-old boy who is both a genius and filled with rage against the world, but not against his beloved grandma. For her, he undertakes a detecting job to sleuth out the graffiti artist who has painted the nursing home sign with insulting remarks. He navigates the world of other teens, girls, and adults. Pretty good story, but I'm thinking would have more appeal for guys.
ImBookingIt on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Very unique. The protagonist is 12 years old, but this book is not for kids."Huge" (he really wishes everyone would stop calling him Genie) is going to enter 7th grade and the world of Junior High in the fall, but he's entering with two big strikes against him. First, he has a really bad temper. A destroy-the-classroom, terrify-the-students, can't-be-left-home-alone temper. This temper has led him to have one heck of a reputation.Second, he's smart. The kind of book smart that leads kids and teachers to resent him, but doesn't let him figure out what to do about it.The latter is enough to endear the character to me. The fact that he goes to visit his grandmother in the nursing home didn't hurt either. His grandmother has encouraged a love of detective fiction in him, and now she wants to hire him to track down who vandalized the retirement home sign.The book is primarily a coming of age novel, with some preteen adventure thrown in. It's funny at times, touching at others.Now, there's one thing I have to mention, because it bothered me. Remember when I said this book wasn't for kids? Everything I've said so far could make a great book, readable by tweens/early teens and adults as well.Unfortunately, this book dwells way too much on the sex life of a not yet teenager: his experience with his exhibitionist sister (who's portrayed as the normal one in the family); and his experience with a girl his age who's been taken advantage of by an older boy, and who wants to demonstrate what she's learned.It's part of his story, which is an unusual one. I just didn't (personally) find it necessary.
loosha on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Eugene. Everyone calls him Genie, but his name is Huge. He's 12, too intelligent for a normal life, too angry to fit in. He built his bicycle, the Cruiser, from spare parts; his constant companion is a stuffed frog with an attitude; his best friend is his older 'hot' sister who facilites his voyeuristic initiation to, well, you know. He's skipped a grade, he's repeated a grade, he's punched out a teacher who just didn't get him, he's punched out a classmate who won top honours that should have been his. His mother single-parents him the best she can. He visits (and loves) his grandma in the retirement home and she turns him on to detective work. Yes, he will solve the crime...who defaced the sign at the home? Huge is a timely character, the story is true and sweet. For me, good to get back into the pulse of youth.
DougG138 More than 1 year ago
Wow, could not put this down. Fortunately stumbled upon it in the store and found myself overwhelmingly curious to find out what each day in this kid's life was going to bring. Hoping the author writes more.
BadIggly More than 1 year ago
Huge written by James W. Fuerest is a hilarious mystery novel. Huge is a surprising and funny story. In the story Eugene makes a comment on every page which will make you cry in laughter. Huge is surprising because the story has numerous villains and you will never guess which one is the culprit. Huge is set in New Jersey during the late 1990's. The main character of Huge has many conflicts in the story. The major conflict in the story is that the young detective Eugene "Huge" Smalls is paid by his grandmother to find out who vandalized the sign of the retirement home. Eugene goes suspect to suspect to understand the case. Fist, Eugene goes to Darren "Big D" and finds out the person who vandalized the retirement home is not a professional tagger. Second Eugene's sister Neecey, reveals that the town's rich jock Razor, has been using steroids and his mind hasn't been working lately. Lastly, Eugene and Stacy (Eugene's crush) have a talk which lets Eugene find out Razor has been forcing someone to steel money from the retirement home to pay for his steroids. With this information Eugene realizes who the true culprit is. The author uses a lot of personification on Eugene's only friend who is a stuffed animal named Trash. For the first two chapters people who would read this story think Trash was a real people. The author used phrases like "Thrash gave me the look" and "Thrash was getting restless and impatient." Trash's identity is revealed in the third chapter when Darren asks Eugene "Why do you have a teenage mutant ninja turtle in your backpack?"(Darren doesn't realize Trash is a frog.). I would recommend Huge to anyone who likes mysteries or a good joke. You'll get a lot of laughs while trying to solve a brain boggling case.
lcr More than 1 year ago
Huge is a great character. Original and enjoyable.
Gracie_L More than 1 year ago
What a fabulous book! I loved the writing style and the 12-year-old perspective on life. The things that Huge encouters and deals with is funny, comical and something I think we all can relate to. It is a book for readers of all ages. I would recommend this to almost anyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i bought this after seeing the review in people mag. i'm only half way through but am really enjoying this. the characters and writing style are great.