Less intense but just as candid as his debut The Burn Journals, Runyon's sensitively wrought novel explores a high-school student coming to terms with his older brother's death. Through Brian's first-person narrative, the author demonstrates how Brian's life has been rocked by the tragedy, beginning with his move to a new house and school, where no one knows that his family has suffered a loss. The protagonist's attitude towards teachers, classes and students reveals a lack of emotional commitment and bottled-up anger, which only begins to surface after he joins a theater group and lands a part in a play. Sean does not speak outwardly about his grief (details about his brother's car accident are not revealed until the end of the book), but readers will sense his emptiness at school and at home, where his parents continue their lives as though everything were normal. Sean's first attempt to confess his loss (which occurs right after he loses his virginity) causes him more pain than relief but signifies a turning point in his healing process. Brian's intimate, often humorous narrative exposes his overactive sexual drive, his impressions of people, and his day-to-day frustrations, which will quickly draw teens into the story and entice them to read between the lines to understand Brian's underlying sorrow. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Destined in this reviewer's eyes to become a young adult classic, this novel follows Brian as he moves to a new school in the wake of a mystery surrounding his older brother. Brian's struggle to get acclimated finds him hanging with the local thespians, brushing up against random girls in the hallway to feel them up, and wondering if it is okay to have sex with a girl whom he really does not even like. Brian is shut off emotionally and surrounded by people going through their own stories of pain and drama, until the book's haunting conclusion, in which he takes one final car ride with his brother. The final scene hits readers like a bullet and casts even more shadows upon everything that came before. Runyon's first book after The Burn Journals (Knopf, 2004/VOYA October 2004), the account of his own suicide attempt, is gritty stuff, but it is also powerful and realistic-perhaps one of the best portrayals of the American adolescent male, even at his darkest. Not every reader will like or do everything that Brian does-his all-encompassing pursuit of sex comes laden with heavy profanity and alcohol-but by the end of the book, it is a virtual guarantee that he will have expressed at least one thought shared by all teenagers. If one has ever looked at a male youth and wondered what was going on inside his head, this book will go a long way toward answering some of those questions-which for some will be a pretty scary thought.
Gr 9 Up-A novel about the loss of a sibling should be painful and poignant, and this one is both, but it's also surprisingly funny. Brian, 16, is a smart but ordinary student coping with family tragedy-though readers don't get the details until almost the end of the book-and also adjusting to a new high school. His first-person, present-tense narrative lets readers peer into his often-random thoughts as he moves through his classes, makes new friends, and dates all the wrong girls. Meanwhile, his grief is something he pushes to the background. Brian's voice is clear and authentic; his thoughts come across as uncensored and raw, ranging from angrily self-destructive to sharply observant. His reflections on the opposite sex are both amusing and sad-for instance, he struggles to decide whether to break up with a girlfriend who annoys him, but who may offer him a chance to lose his virginity. Slowly, he reconnects with his parents, figures out a few things about himself, and comes to terms with his brother's death. Readers looking for action and adventure won't find it here, but this is a superb exploration of sudden loss, romantic disappointment, and general adolescent angst.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Runyon follows the critical success of Burn Journals (2004) with a foray into fiction that features another troubled teenaged boy. The 16-year-old protagonist finds himself awash in self-doubt and insecurity when his family moves to a new town after the tragic death of his older, more gregarious, brother. Plagued with "maybes," ("maybe she'll have sex with me," "maybe I should join the Thespians"), the young man's most worrisome doubts are that his brother might have crashed his car on purpose, and that he might be heading down the same road of self-destruction. When at school or with friends, his grief is held at bay; however, the few scenes in which the boy interacts with his parents are particularly poignant in their portrayal of how a family tries to move forward despite their heartache. The common insecurities of adolescence-specifically of hormonally charged teenaged boys-coupled with the added drama and intrigue surrounding the brother's accident, make this an accessible work for a wide, albeit older, teen audience. (Fiction. YA)
“Sensitively-wrought novel . . . will quickly draw teens into the story and entice them to read between the lines to understand Brian’s underlying sorrow.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred
“Destined in this reviewer’s eyes to become a young adult classic. . . . If one has ever looked at a male youth and wondered what was going on inside his head, this book will go a long way toward answering some of those questions.”—VOYA
“This is a superb exploration of sudden loss, romantic disappointment, and general adolescent angst.”—School Library Journal