It's DEAR LIFE, YOU SUCK week on YA Guy! Today, I've got a review of Scott Blagden's great debut novel. On Friday, I'll have an interview with Scott and a great giveaway! So read the review now, keep an eye out for the interview in a couple days, and make sure to enter the giveaway when it comes!
In a good way.
Blagden’s debut novel is not for the faint of heart (or stomach). The title delivers a fair warning. But it’s not until you enter the warped mind of narrator Cricket Cherpin, a sarcastic, pugilistic, foul-mouthed, drug-doing, suicidal seventeen-year-old living in a nun-run orphanage in small-town Maine, that you get the full picture.
Here’s a tiny sample of Cricket’s utterly unique voice, chosen more or less at random:
Cheesecake LaChance is a physiological dichotomy. He’s Beauty and the Beast incarnate. From the neck up, he’s as pretty as a transvestite prom queen. Ice-blue eyes, impeccably groomed butt-bandit beard, and perfect teeth like LEGO pieces. From the neck down, he’s as pretty as an Amazon jungle queen. Tree-trunk thighs, an ass the size of Brazil, and a belly that looks like he swallowed a Galapagos sea turtle. It’s hard to look at him without imagining his Grand Canyon ass-crack bent over a log-clogged toilet, a monkey wrench in his one hand and a plunger in the other.
That’s Cricket: irreverent, tongue-twisting, given to outrageous similes and egregious wordplay.
I won’t lie to you: it takes a few chapters to get accustomed to that voice. And it takes just as long to muster sympathy for the guy, who initially seems like the kind of teenager grownups like me are praying they’ll never have to spend any time with.
But once you’ve made the transition, Blagden’s book is little short of genius. Indeed, the mere fact that he manages to recruit readers to the side of his misanthropic anti-hero is a triumph in itself. But once you understand what makes Cricket tick, once you plumb the depths of his anger at the hand life has dealt him, you find yourself unable to stop reading and rooting for him.
I mean, how could you not root for a character who describes his confusion as follows: “Damn, life sure is carving crop circles in my ass tonight.”
And how could you not be moved by a passage like this, wherein Cricket apostrophizes the eternal:
Me and Art have a problem. The same way me and God have a problem. I mean, this scene is so out of this world, so inhuman and infinite, so boundless, so worthy and eternal. And human life is just so not. Yet I can’t deny a connection. An intermingling. A gravity. A pull. I mean, it sucks at my soul. Probably so it can digest me and shit me out when it’s done. That’s how the infinite makes me feel. Like a hunk of beef it’s gonna process and return to the dirt as fertilizer.
If you think that’s good, wait until you watch Cricket deconstruct the Immaculate Conception.
There’s not enough good I can say about Dear Life, You Suck. It’s hilarious, poignant, wrenching, profound, sad. It’s at once a twisted simulacrum of life and a transcendent celebration of it. It’s like Cricket himself: so surreal it’s all too real.
It’s a book I wish I wrote. About a guy I wish I knew.